Workplace safety is always a concern for companies, as it is their responsibility to keep employees safe from harm. There has been a large growth of the gig economy in recent years, which has transformed the modern workforce and upended traditional models for developing both a workplace safety culture as well as worker safety training, according to Seyfarth Shaw attorneys.
So, what is gig economy? Gig economy refers to a general workforce environment in which short-term engagements, temporary contracts, and independent contracting is commonplace, Wonolo explains. Those who work for companies like Uber and Lyft, independent contractors, freelancers, and temporary staffing firm employees are all considered to be a part of the gig economy. According the Forbes, more than one third of U.S. workers are in the gig economy, which equates to approximately 57 million people. A huge number.
How Does the Gig Economy Work?
When somebody does an individual paid task, assignment, or job, this is considered a gig. A gig represents just a small portion of a worker’s income as a worker is typically aggregating a variety of tasks for different clients or companies, which in turn makes their cumulative earnings similar to a full-time salary. Some leverage short-term gigs as a side job to earn some extra cash part-time.
Wonolo tells us, “the gig economy operates on technology platforms that aim to connect workers looking for flexible work arrangements with the companies who need them in a centralized location, such as an app or website.” Companies such as Uber, a ride-sharing service, are specific technology platforms that connect those who are Uber drivers with those looking for transportation. These niche companies can range from copywriting tasks, to dog walkers, to housekeeping tasks.
Workplace Safety Hazards for the Gig Economy
The gig economy does not have the traditional employer to employee structure, as these jobs often don’t have workplace training or supervision. The new occupational hazards that have grown over the years has sparked labor groups, advocacy organizations, and state legislative bodies to concentrate their efforts to encourage gig companies to address safety risks in this changed environment. Some of the safety issues raised in the gig economy include the following, according to Seyfarth Shaw attorneys:
- Transportation Incidents
Many of the companies that currently exist in gig economy operate in higher-risk industries, such as the businesses that have transformed passenger transportation and freight delivery services. Workers are utilizing public roads and highways, which can cause a major risk to employees. Transportation accidents in general comprise nearly half of all workplace fatalities.
- Lack of Training
There is a serious lack of new-hire training in the gig economy as well as proper safety trainings, which causes workers to not have the knowledge and skills to perform their jobs adequately. Safety trainings should be necessary to ensure gig workers are doing their jobs safely. Gig companies should also provide their employees with the proper protective equipment they may need on the job.
- Young Workforce
As the gig economy is characterized by flexibility and independence many young workers are jumping on board. Because these younger workers have less experience, they also haven’t been exposed to many occupational hazards in the workforce. Creating a safety culture can prevent these less experienced employees from injuring themselves on the job.
- Lack of Communication
Many gig workers may not know the right people within their company to contact if they have safety concerns. Without knowing who to report safety concerns to, workers may choose to simply not report them at all. Making sure there is both solid and constant communication between gig workers and gig companies is key to making sure employees stay safe. Some companies have turned to employee safety apps to ensure the safety of lone workers, which may be useful for gig companies as well.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health have lobbied OSHA to make changes in the gig economy by enforcing workplace safety issues under a dual employer theory. “This would make the gig company responsible for safety compliance, even though the gig worker is not an employee of the gig company”, Seyfarth Shaw explains. They continue by recommending, “Gig companies should consult with counsel and safety professionals to learn how to address hazards and mitigate risks and liabilities.”
Employee Safety Apps and the Gig Economy
When somebody leaves for work, they expect to get home safely. This applies to those working in the gig economy as well. One great way to ensure remote and gig employees stay safe is by implementing an effective employee safety app. This safety app can help gig workers with common safety concerns on the job and attempt to protect them from harm. An app with an emergency call button, safety timer, and geo-targeted push notifications can guarantee employers can keep in touch with gig workers who are in a certain location.
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