NIOSH Officials See Need for Research on Contingent Workers' Safety

Noting the big changes in U.S. workforces and types of work since 1970, two NIOSH officials posted an entry on the agency's Science Blog ( commenting that more research is needed on the safety of contingent workers. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has similar ideas; it has invited the nation to take a Web survey about issues emerging from changing Canadian workplaces. Visit to read the CCOHS survey. CCOHS will present its results this spring.

Kristin J. Cummings, M.D., M.P.H., a medical officer in the NIOSH Field Studies Branch, Division of Respiratory Disease Studies, and Kathleen Kreiss, M.D., chief of the division, wrote in a Feb. 19 post on the blog that contingent workers are nearly one-third of the U.S. workforce, or 43 million workers in 2005, and they range from well-compensated independent financial consultants to low-skilled construction workers. Cummings and Kreiss wrote about the issues facing contingent workers in the Jan. 30, 2008, issue of JAMA in "Contingent Workers and Contingent Health: Risks of a Modern Economy."

Most U.S. contingent workers are white and 25 years old or older. "However, compared to workers in traditional arrangements, contingent workers are more likely to be young, female, black or Hispanic, and to have lower incomes and fewer benefits," according to the blog post. "One analysis of 2005 federal data found that 16 percent of contingent workers have family incomes less than $20,000, a proportion twice as high as that of noncontingent workers. Only 13 percent of contingent workers had health insurance provided by their employer, compared with 72 percent of noncontingent workers. In addition, there is growing evidence that contingent workers are at higher risk for work-related injury, illness, and death. While much of the evidence comes from Europe, several studies in the United States have demonstrated higher risk," it says, citing BLS data, a rate of needlestick injuries among temporary nurses caring for AIDS patients in 11 U.S. hospitals that was 1.65 times higher than the rate for staff nurses working in the same units, and a 2004 survey of day laborers that found 19 percent of them reported work-related injuries that required medical attention in the previous year, compared with less than 5 percent of workers in all private industries and 6 percent of all workers in construction.

"Possible explanations for the higher risk of work-related injury, illness, and death among contingent workers include: the outsourcing of more hazardous jobs, lack of experience and familiarity with operations in a dangerous workplace, inadequate safety training and protective equipment, and limited access to preventive measures such as medical screening programs," Cummings and Kreiss noted in their post. "Components of current health and safety regulations and the workers' compensation system, which were designed during a different economic era, also play a role. For example, millions of contingent workers are not covered by workers' compensation insurance for medical benefits for work-related injury and illness. The limited research conducted on the health of contingent workers in the U.S. is due in part to the challenges of studying this unaffiliated, transient and dynamic workforce. More research is needed to accurately estimate the extent of the problem, understand its causes, and find effective ways to prevent injury and illness and promote health among contingent workers."

Download Center

HTML - No Current Item Deck
  • Get the Ultimate Guide to OSHA Recordkeeping

    OSHA’s Form 300A posting deadline is February 1! Are you prepared? To help answer your key recordkeeping questions, IndustrySafe put together this guide with critical compliance information.

  • Steps to Conduct a JSA

    We've put together a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help you perform a job safety analysis (JSA), which includes a pre-built, JSA checklist and template, steps of a JSA, list of potential job hazards, and an overview of hazard control hierarchy.

  • Everything You Need to Know about Incident investigations

    Need some tips for conducting an incident investigation at work after there’s been an occupational injury or illness, or maybe even a near miss? This guide presents a comprehensive overview of methods of performing incident investigations to lead you through your next steps.

  • Free Safety Management Software Demo

    IndustrySafe Safety Management Software helps organizations to improve safety by providing a comprehensive toolset of software modules to help businesses identify trouble spots; reduce claims, lost days, OSHA fines; and more.

  • Industry Safe

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - November December 2020

    November December 2020


      Managing Cold Stress
      Providing Training for Fall Protection
      Eight Tips for Hearing Testing Day
      Incorporating COVID-19 Protections into Safety Programs
    View This Issue