With the holiday season in full swing, I am reminded of the old high school gigs I took during holidays to make some extra money and get myself out of the house on my long breaks from school. Though seasonal workers are definitely in demand this time of year, temporary workers of all kinds are on the rise. The US Department of Labor reported that our temporary workforce is at its highest rate of all time, about 2.7 million. The American Staffing Association reports that a tenth of all employees get work through a staffing agency. Most of these temporary workers are in blue-collar occupations in factories and warehouses, in 2012 more than one in twenty blue-collar workers was a temp.
We hear horror stories of workers who have been injured or even died the first day on the job. Whether this is due to lack of training has not been proved but I imagine that most temps don’t go through a rigorous pre-employment training. OSHA has been performing interviews with many temporary workers and finding evidence that points to the safety shortcuts taken by employers. Temps are rushed through safety tests and training or not given any sort of protection at all.
Currently, the government does not monitor the injury rate amongst temps like it does for almost every other industry. OSHA has announced an initiative to try and provide more information on temporary workers. It is hard because all states report differently, and some don’t filter out temp workers from permanent workers when reporting injury claims. A study done in Washington state discovered that temps in construction and manufacturing are twice as likely to be injured as workers who were employed on a full-time basis. Remember that blue-collar jobs also employ the biggest percentage of temporary workers. In Florida temps are almost six times as likely to be injured as permanent employees.
Maybe this is because of the lack of obligation the employers might feel towards these employees. It’s easy to have a “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” attitude about them. Employers might not train them in the same way or really give them much advice about how to succeed in the job long-term. Many temps live on minimum wage and don’t have health benefits or any sense of stability. Host companies are not obligated to provide workers’ comp or even make sure their employees have legal citizen status, and we all know how well immigrants have been faring in the workplace. If a worker is injured on the job it is up to the temp company to pay for the workers’ comp. That means the site where the injury occurred won’t face higher premiums or costs because of the injury, giving them little incentive to spend money or time preventing an injury in the first place.
Temporary work was a great option for me around the holidays. I had time off, I was bored and who doesn’t love a little extra spending money? Even though I was a teenager and more worried about the new pair of jeans I was working towards and not so much my workers’ comp status or my health benefits, I can understand the stress and concerns that it causes temporary workers. They are just trying to make an honest living and they should not have to face indifferent employers and a higher risk of injury.