Advocacy group calls for contingent worker protections

Washington – Employers are increasingly using contingent workers, and OSHA should develop rules and inspection programs aimed at preventing injuries among this vulnerable population, concludes a new paper from the Center for Progressive Reform.

Short-term or contingent work – which is prevalent in the farming, construction, warehousing and hotel industries – often provides low wages, little job security and exposure to hazardous conditions, according to the paper (.pdf file), released Jan. 11. Additionally, CPR claims employers may lack the financial incentives to eliminate hazards because they do not directly pay for the workers’ compensation and health insurance of contingent workers.

The paper, which builds on recommendations from a previous CPR report (.pdf file) that called for executive orders to protect contingent workers, proposes OSHA take the following actions:

  • Require employers to provide all workers with a minimum level of safety training
  • Conduct enforcement “sweeps” and issue higher penalties to employers who fail to address safety among contingent workers
  • Develop an ergonomics standard for certain industries
  • Revise Voluntary Protection Programs entry criteria so employers only use contingency workers in low-hazard jobs
  • Improve staff members’ foreign language skills

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