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A new report by the Center for Progressive Reform claims contract labor is bringing new threats to worker safety and calls for the federal government to crack down on firms that use a lot of temps. The group is a Washington-based nonprofit formed in 2002.
The white paper report focuses temporary workers in farming, construction (including day laborers that are hired outside big box stores), warehousing and the hotel industry.
“Whether it’s day laborers doing construction jobs or hotel housekeepers on temporary contracts, safety dangers are magnified because contingent workers don't always get the training they need, and because employers don’t have a permanent responsibility to the worker,” Martha McCluskey, a coauthor of the report, said in a press release. McClusky is also a professor at the University of Buffalo Law School
“Contingent workers are disproportionately racial minorities and often come from vulnerable socio-economic backgrounds,” McClusky said. “Increasingly, employers are treating them as expendable, accepting high injury rates because the company is largely insulated from the economic consequences. As a result, contingent workers suffer frequent injuries on the job. Federal worker safety policy needs to take on the challenge of protecting this work force, or contingent workers will be left to the mercy of employers who have little economic incentive to protect them.”
For example, in warehousing, the report says workers are subject to repetitive stress injuries, dangerous equipment such as unstable racks and poorly maintained forklifts, and extremes in temperature such as extreme heat in the summer.
The group has several recommendations for Congress and OSHA, including:
- Congress should amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act to include a private right-of-action to allow any person to bring a suit in federal court under the act.
- OSHA should establish rules so that workers receive a minimum of job- and site-specific training. OSHA should also expand funding for community organizations to provide training.
- OSHA should conduct sweeps of industries where contingent workers are most prevalent. And enhanced penalties should be issued against employers that have large numbers of contingents and fail to make special accommodations for those workers in the firm’s health and safety programs.
- Ergonomic standards should be crafted by OSHA for specific industries, beginning with industries where contingent workers suffer high rates of musculoskeletal injuries.
- OSHA’s voluntary protection program should be revised so firms involved do not use significant numbers of contingent workers in high-hazard jobs.
- A clearinghouse for information should be started by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to track data on health hazards in industries where contingent workers are prevalent.
- OSHA should continue efforts to bring in staff able to communicate with workers that don’t speak English.
For the full report, click here.