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Gig workers make up nearly 1 in 8 on-the-job deaths: BLS

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Washington — Independent workers – defined as people who are likely self-employed and performing short-term jobs with “no guarantee of future work beyond the task” – accounted for 12.3% of worker fatalities in 2016 and 2017, according to Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries data released Aug. 9 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The data shows that independent workers accounted for 1,275 of the 10,337 fatal occupational injuries documented in the two-year period.

“Independent workers are considered … to be an at-risk group because of their fluid employment situation, which potentially puts them at greater risk for poorer workplace safety and health outcomes,” Stephen Pegula and Matt Gunter, economists from the BLS Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, wrote in the August edition of BLS’ Beyond the Numbers.

Other data highlights:

  • 662 independent worker fatalities were documented in 2016; 613 in 2017.
  • 85% were independent contractors.
  • Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers experienced 173 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation. First-line supervisors of construction trades and extraction workers (95), construction laborers (79), and landscaping and groundskeeping workers (70) followed.
  • Slips, trips and falls accounted for 26.4% of the fatalities.
  • 328 of the deaths (25.7%) occurred among workers ages 55-64.

BLS had not previously published workplace injury and illness data for independent workers, Pegula and Gunter wrote. However, the agency in June 2018 released updated data on contingent/alternative workers, which BLS considers a similar but not identical group.

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