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How to improve health and safety for contingent workers

A couple of great stories are out this week highlighting health and safety concerns of contingent workers, citing the Center for Progressive Reform’s excellent white paper, “At the Company’s Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions.”

“Their shared experience is one of little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for advancement, and, all too often, hazardous working conditions,” the white paper says of workers whose employment is contingent upon short-term fluctuations in demand for employees. “When hazards lead to work-related injuries, the contingent nature of the employment relationship can exacerbate the negative consequences for the injured worker and society.”

National COSH for years has argued that contingent workers are more vulnerable to occupational health and safety issues, and CPR’s white paper confirms this. used information from the white paper, as well as a guest op-ed this week in The New York Times, to highlight the prominence of temporary workers in today’s economy – and the problems that accompany it.

"Low-wage, temporary jobs have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm,” Erin Hatton, an assistant professor of sociology at the State University of New York, Buffalo, wrote in the Times. "Even today ‘temp’ jobs are beyond the reach of many workplace protections, not only health benefits but also unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination laws and union-organizing rights," she notes.

"According to the temp industry, workers were just another capital investment; only the product of the labor had any value. The workers themselves were expendable," said Hatton.

EHS Today references CPR’s white paper in its article, providing seven strategies to improve safety for contingent workers. From strengthening OSH Act enforcement to empowering workers with stronger “right-to-know” laws, CPR’s white paper breaks down commonsense ways to keep our country’s contingent workers safe on the job.

National COSH emphasizes that OSH enforcement needs to ensure that all parties involved in employing contingent workers – both the actual employer (e.g., a temp service) and the company that controls the worksite – are held accountable for ensuring safe and healthy working conditions for these contingent workers.