The Workplace Risk for Seasonal Workers
Increased incidences of injuries for seasonal workers necessitates greater awareness.
March 19th marked the official end to another long, cold winter. Unfortunately for many, however, the onset of more temperate weather also marks the beginning of more dangerous working conditions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the inauspicious reality that seasonal workers face is that the warmer months mean greater likelihood of being injured.
Road construction crews know that warmer weather means more traffic. Unsurprisingly, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that more motor vehicles on the road during the summer months translate into a seasonal spike in motor vehicle accidents. These accidents disproportionately affect road construction crews who tend to be more active during the period.
The combination of more road maintenance and construction projects during warmer months, the resulting slowdowns in traffic, the confusing setup of signs, barrels, and lane changes and the hotter temperatures creates driver frustration and more aggressive driving behavior. These conditions create an exceptionally dangerous workplace for road crews which, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), resulted in over 770 fatalities per year between 1982 and 2017 in such work zones and approximately 123 injuries per year between 2003 and 2017.
In recent years, delivery drivers have benefitted from the consumer shift to ecommerce. These drivers, who are mostly considered to be non-seasonal, not only experience the effects – and associated risks – of greater traffic congestion during the summer months but they increasingly contribute to the problem.
Notably, the next few months of 2020 will likely produce even more delivery drivers as consumers avoid shopping in crowds due to Coronavirus fears, opting for home delivery for their shopping needs. A related effect of the pandemic, and contributor to increased traffic congestion, is referenced in a recent USA TODAY article that cited commuters who are switching to cars over public transportation as the virus spreads.
Warmer weather also requires the need for more lawn and landscaping work. The idiosyncrasies of the industry create perilous working conditions that often result in serious on-the-job injuries. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), migrants – who often do not speak English – make up the majority of the industry’s workforce.
The other major demographic is of young – often inexperienced – teens earning extra money for the summer. A breakdown in basic communication between these two groups makes for an exceptionally dangerous work environment that can result in tragic consequences, especially when considering that crews work at a rapid pace; with dangerous machinery, hazardous chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides; and, under the hot sun for long periods of time. When considering all of these variables, it is understandable why the National Consumers League (NCL) regularly ranks Landscaping and Lawn Service as one of the top 5 most dangerous jobs for teens.
According to the BLS, the youth labor force, which is made up of 16- to 24-year olds, is the primary driver in the uptick in the employment rate over the summer months. Although the demographic works across a range of industries, youths concentrate most heavily in restaurants, which is an industry with one of the highest rates of injuries. Although causes for higher rates of on-the-job injuries vary, experts regularly cite the lack of on-the-job training for seasonal employees as the most frequent reason.
Know Your Rights
Although seasonal workers experience higher incidences of on-the-job industries, they are less likely to report their injuries. By definition, they work only a few months a year and their livelihood, as well as that of their families, may be heavily dependent on their seasonal earnings. Sadly, they often fear being fired or otherwise restricted from working. However, these workers have the same rights as their non-seasonal counterparts, who are typically better trained, more experienced and less dependent on a few months each year for their earnings. To understand these rights and to ensure that these workers protect themselves and their families, it is important to contact an attorney to discuss the various options.
The Callahan Law Firm has been representing and caring for people and their families in serious injury cases for over 25 years. Michael Callahan is a passionate and dedicated practitioner who is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Michael also is a member of the American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA), the Houston Trial Lawyers Association (HTLA) and the Texas Bar Association. Michael holds a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law and is a graduate of the prestigious Trial Lawyers’ College, which was founded and is directed by Gerry Spence. Since 2011, Michael has also been an involved faculty member for the College, which accepts a very limited number of lawyers nationwide each year and is exclusively for lawyers who represent people. The College and its members are dedicated to educating and training lawyers who are committed to the jury system and to representing and obtaining justice for the individual.