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Boston Temporary Workers Have Fewer Protections, May Seek SSDI

Temporary workers represent a growing microcosm of our workforce, one in which workers have fewer protections, suffer more accidents, are less likely to have health care and face an uphill battle in securing any kind of workers’ compensation.
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A recent expose by a team of journalists with TIME magazine and the non-profit ProPublica took a closer look at how corporations are more frequently utilizing these workers, typically to the detriment of full-time positions and the erosion of workplace safety.

As Boston Social Security Disability Insurance attorneys, we recognize that it’s highly unlikely that these workers have health care coverage, let alone long-term disability insurance. Yet they are more likely than full-time workers to get hurt on the job.

The majority of these individuals are production helpers, laborers and freight, stock and material movers, assemblers, packers, machine operators and construction laborers. These are fields that, by their very nature, tend to have higher rates of injury than other sectors of the workforce. Factor into this a lack of experience and on top of that a company’s lack of investment in that individual, and this will inevitably result in a higher injury rate.

Some of the examples have been horrific. In the winter of 2011, a temp worker in Chicago was killed after being scalded by citric acid solution at a shampoo and skin cream manufacturer. The factory never even called 911.

Then in mid-2012, a temp in Jacksonville was crushed to death his very first day on the job at a bottling plant when a supervisor instructed him to clean glass from underneath a stacking machine, a job that the Occupational Safety & Health Administration said he was not trained or qualified to conduct.

And then earlier this year, a temporary worker was killed at a paper mill in North Carolina when he was overcome by fumes while cleaning a chemical tank.

The government doesn’t keep a tally of how many temporary workers are hurt or killed on the job. However, a recent study out of Washington state revealed that temporary workers in the construction industry were twice as likely to be hurt while doing a job than a full-time staffer.

OSHA announced in April that it planned to launch an initiative to get better information on temporary worker injuries and safety protocol.

Based on ProPublica’s analysis of federal enforcement data regarding wage and hour violations, temp agencies consistently rank the worst. A 2005 survey by the U.S. Labor Department found that only about 4 percent of temps have retirement or pension plans from their employers. And about 8 percent get health insurance (compared to nearly 60 percent of full-time workers).

Massachusetts has established one of the better systems, with its Massachusetts Temporary Workers Right-to-Know-Law passed in January and said to be a model. IT requires that workers be told upfront who they will work for, how much they will be paid and what kind of safety equipment they will need. It also limits cost and fees for transportation to the job site, which tends to push wages below state and federal minimums.

Of course, this still doesn’t address the issue of how a worker will cope if he or she is injured on the job.

As we mentioned earlier, it may be tougher to secure workers’ compensation benefits if the individual has been hopping from one factory or construction site to the next.

This is where SSDI can be a critical lifeline. If you are rendered unable to work for more than a year due to an injury – whether work-related or not – you could be entitled to receive SSDI benefits.

If you are considering filing for SSDI in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:
The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed, June 27, 2013, By Michael Grabell, ProPublica
More Blog Entries:
Massachusetts Disability Lawyers Mark National Safety Month, June 13, 2013, Boston Social Security Disability Lawyers’ Blog