Tis’ the season for seasonal and temporary jobs to be filled, so it is important that employers protect the health and safety of gig economy, agency and temporary workers.
For health and safety purposes, gig economy workers should be treated no differently to other workers and will often identify as agency or temporary workers, or self-employed.
The types of work carried out by gig, agency and temporary workers can lead to issues beyond what might be considered normal workplace hazards, due to:
- Challenging deadlines;
- Long, unsociable hours; or
- Managing high demands.
These can have adverse health consequences for workers such as musculoskeletal disorders, stress, tiredness and fatigue.
Protect new starters
Workers are just as likely to have an accident in their first six months at work as they are during the rest of their working life. This risk is increased because of:
- Lack of experience of working in a new industry or workplace;
- Being unfamiliar with the job and work environment;
- Not wanting to raise concerns or not knowing how to;
- Eagerness to impress workmates and managers.
This can cause new workers to:
- Not recognise hazards as a potential source of danger;
- Not understand “obvious” rules for equipment use;
- Not be familiar with a site layout, especially where site hazards may change daily;
- Ignore warning signs and rules, or cut corners.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides advice on how to protect new starters. They suggest employers:
- Assess the new starter’s capabilities, including literacy and numeracy levels, general health, work experience, physical capability, familiarity with the work being done, cultural issues and language;
- Provide an induction including photos of hazards, using simple language, and walk them around the workplace showing them where the main hazards are;
- Make sure control measures to protect against risks are up to date, are being properly used and maintained;
- Provide relevant information, instruction and training about the risks new workers may be exposed to, and the precautions they need to take to avoid them;
- Provide adequate supervision and make sure workers know how to raise their concerns;
- Check workers have understood the information, instruction and training they need to work safely and are acting on it.
Health and safety responsibilities of users and suppliers of agency and temporary workers
For agencies and businesses who use gig, temporary, seasonal or agency workers, the day-to-day responsibility for health and safety during that period lies with the end user businesses, because they will direct the work and control the premises where it takes place.
They are in the best position to manage the health and safety of the worker and anyone else that could be affected by their work.
The HSE states that before work the employment agency or employment business must:
- Liaise with the end user business to identify anything that could cause injury or illness in their workplace or business operation;
- Assess the likelihood of any harm and agree on actions for the end user business to eliminate or control these known risks;
- Obtain clear information on the:
- worker’s duties,
- skills, experience and qualifications required for them to do the job safely,
- identified risks and control measures in place including health surveillance and clear guidance on how to raise health and safety concerns;
- Check the worker meets the job requirements; and
- Give them all information relevant to the job received from the end user business before work starts.
During the work placement, the HSE said it is important to be clear on who does what and never assume someone else will take responsibility for workplace safety. Therefore an ongoing collaboration between the end user business, the supplier and the worker will help ensure safety responsibilities are always clear.
If there is a reportable incident under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) SI 2013/1471 in the workplace involving a gig, agency or temporary worker, there is a duty to report it.
If the worker is employed by the employment agency, they are the legal employer and have the same legal obligations as any other employer to report accidents and ill health to their employees.
In other cases, the duty is on the end user business to report accidents as they are in control of the premises where an accident occurs.
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