Anyone who routinely uses ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft or Gett has likely heard at least one driver extol the flexibility of such a job. Indeed, the flexible hours and ability to set one’s own schedule are a major draw to “gigs” like driving, running errands and making deliveries.
However, as more and more Americans join the gig economy, safety experts are growing concerned about the implications for health and safety. According to a recent report by Entrepreneur, the realities of “gigging” create several risks for workers as well as consumers.
Flexibility vs. safety risks in the gig economy
In general, gigs are less regulated than traditional jobs. That helps explain the flexibility that workers love, but it also creates some very real dangers:
- A lack of safety protections – Employees in the United States are entitled to certain safety protections put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Those protections include limited hours, required rest breaks and safety training. Unfortunately, gig workers are rarely considered “employees” under the law, which means they don’t benefit from these protections.
- Fatigue – Along with a lack of regulation comes the potential for workers to work excessive hours, miss breaks and neglect self-care. While this is particularly dangerous for drivers, it can affect virtually any kind of worker – as well as the consumers they interact with.
- Isolation and stress – Work-related injuries are not limited to traumatic events like falls and car crashes. Some safety experts call the gig economy a recipe for stress. A combination of uncertainty, lack of control, isolation and insecure income leads many workers to experience depression, anxiety and other stress-related illnesses.
- Inadequate health coverage – If workers are not classified as employees, they are not entitled to the same benefits as their traditional, full-time counterparts. Those who “gig” for a living may go without health insurance, which can be detrimental to their overall health.
What does the future hold?
As debates about health care and social safety nets rage on in the United States, the future of worker safety is uncertain, particularly in this developing sector of the economy. We will continue to follow this issue and advocate for the safety of all workers in New York.