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Blue-collar temps struggle for workers' compensation rights

As a growing percentage of Florida's manufacturing and construction workers are categorized as temporary blue-collar employees, some disturbing trends are beginning to emerge. New information shows that all temp workers in Florida are 50 percent more likely to suffer a job-related injury than their permanent counterparts. For those in blue collar positions, the danger jumps significantly: Those Floridians are six times as likely to be hurt on the job. In many cases, those workers do not receive appropriate workers' compensation benefits, largely because of the nature of their actual employers - temp agencies.

The injuries suffered by temporary workers are not trivial. They include crush injuries, major lacerations, fractures, punctures and even amputations. Shockingly, temporary blue-collar workers are three times as likely to suffer an amputation as those in a facility's permanent workforce. This vulnerable population continues to grow thanks to the down economy and the financial benefits of hiring temporary workers at low cost.

Official reports show that unsafe working conditions are more likely to affect temp workers because those employees have not received thorough safety training. Many are working with major machinery that they have never encountered, or they are using muscles that are not normally activated by everyday activities. National statistics show that many workers' compensation claims are filed within the first three months of work; likewise, many temp assignments may only last a couple weeks. An Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation reveals the same type of shocking statistics, with reports indicating that temp workers are often taught to take shortcuts on dangerous equipment.

Those shortcuts are often taken to improve production, as supervisors threaten workers with pay cuts or even job loss. As a consequence, employees fail to properly deactivate large machines during maintenance; scores of workers are injured or killed because the machines suddenly turn back on while their limbs are inside.

Ultimately, the national perspective on temporary worker safety must change, and temp agencies need to be more amenable to providing workers' compensation benefits. Blue-collar temp workers in Maryland and across the country do not deserve to be exposed to terrifyingly unsafe working conditions, nor do they deserve to die because of employer negligence. Family members of deceased temp workers who have been denied benefits may be eligible for financial damages; a consultation with a qualified personal injury attorney can help them learn more.

Source: Huffington Post, "Temp Work Isn't Only Insecure -- It's More Dangerous Too" Michael Grabell, Olga Pierce and Jeff Larson, Dec. 18, 2013

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