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Why Do Temp/Contract Workers Cause More Accidents?

This week our guest blogger is Guy Schrecker, General Manager of HSE Passport

Why do Temporary and Contract Workers Cause More Accidents?

I have always suspected that temporary workers have a higher incidence of accident in the workplace than their fully employed colleagues but, up till now, did not have any concrete evidence to support this.

I recently visited a very large food processing plant that needs to have a good deal of ‘flex’ in its workforce due to the seasonality of the industry. As a result they have the need to use up to 100 agency workers on any given day.

Now unusually (in my experience) they had very accurate accident data that included if the injury was to a fully employed worker, or to an agency temporary contractor. This data clearly showed the extraordinary figure that 80% of all reported accidents were caused by the agency workers who only represented 25% of the total workforce! What is not recorded is if they caused any accidents that resulted in the injury of the employed staff.

So, why would this section of the workforce cause such a disproportionate number of accidents?

In my opinion there are four main factors:

  1. Unfamiliar surroundings: Temporary workers are, by their nature, ‘new’ to the workplace and so will be less familiar with their surroundings and where the dangers are.
  2. Lack of training: It is unlikely that they have the same access to the company safety training as their fully employed colleagues. Their host company may only see them for a couple of days – so why would it invest in the same training as their staff?
  3. EAL (English as an additional language) issues: Many workers in this demographic will have a limited understanding of the local language, thus they may not understand some of the instruction/ training that they receive.
  4. Motivation: If a person does not see themselves as being a permanent employee, perhaps they are less minded to work in a considerate and safe manner. This many not only increase the risk to themselves but also to the people working with them.

So what can we do to reduce the risk?

Ensure that every new worker, regardless of whether they are fully employed or not, gets a full and proper site safety induction. Record the items discussed and get them to sign the document agreeing to be mindful of site specific dangers and control measures.

Ensure that they have all passed a course in basic health, safety, environmental and fire training. If the person comes with evidence of competency the host site can (once the above is completed), start them working straight away. If they come with no evidence of competence then the host site must make the time to give them health and safety training BEFORE they commence their assignment.

If they have a limited understanding of the English language, the host company must be prepared to spend some additional time and resource to ensure they understand how to work safely. It’s no good blaming the worker for not understanding if they have an accident as the responsibility will still fall back to the site operator.

And finally, if the temp is treated in a manner that makes them feel they are a secondary worker, they may behave like one. Temporary workers should be given the same respect, consideration and facilities as their full time colleagues, which should encourage them to behave in a safer and more cooperative manner and, ultimately reduce the accident rate.

Guy Schrecker, HSE Passport General Manager
Find out more about HSE Passport here.

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