Workplace Safety and Health Among Temps


As the prevalence of non-standard work arrangements (such as temporary agency, contract, and “gig” arrangements) rises, so do concerns about workplace safety and health among this workforce.

A recent article, “Non-standard work arrangements and worker health and safety” published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, describes the major standard and non-standard work arrangements and the potential managerial, legal, and health and safety challenges associated with nonstandard arrangements.

The unifying feature shared by workers involved in non-standard work arrangements is that they have no expectation of permanence, even if the work is performed well. Independent contractors do not have a legal right to a safe workplace and are not legally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. Some gig workers do not earn the minimum wage.

A 2013 study by researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported 18.7% of adults work in non-standard arrangements (i.e., largely jobs that were “temporary”).

A 2015 RAND-Princeton Contingent Work Survey reported that the percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements (as defined by BLS) increased from 10.1% to 15.8% in 2015 . In sum, estimates of the nonstandard workforce range from around 8% to 18% of the total workforce.

In the past 20 years, studies have demonstrated the existence of differential health risks between workers and nonstandard work arrangements. Why these differential risks occur are not entirely clear. Workers in nonstandard arrangements may bear more injury risk because they are assigned more hazardous work and are reluctant to object.

In the Third Decade of NORA (2016–2026), NIOSH will convene partners from organizational science, epidemiology, occupational psychology, economics, sociology, law, management, labor health and safety, and worker advocacy to explore models for healthy work design and worker well-being, continuing to address the ever-shifting challenges workers face as they navigate the global economy.