What Should Employers Do to Keep Seasonal Workers Safe?

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This is the season for a major spike in holiday shopping, which means that many retailers need to hire additional staff in order to accommodate the increase in business.  In addition to retail, other industries experience a significant increase in business during the holidays, including distribution centers, warehouses, and delivery workers. To meet the increased demand for products and services, many employers hire seasonal workers to work for a short period of time. Depending on the type of work that the employee is hired to do, there are a range of hazards that the employee may encounter that can increase the risk of a workplace injury. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment and provide the necessary training and supervision for all seasonal employees. If an employee is injured while hired as a seasonal worker, he or she may be eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can aid injured workers in the claims process.

In 2017, over 18 percent of the 4,414 workplace fatalities involved contracted employees, which includes temporary workers. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), employers who hire seasonal help for the holidays must provide the necessary training for each worker and ensure that the workers understand their responsibilities and how to avoid any hazards that may be associated with the job. This is especially true for teen workers who may be entering the workforce for the first time and are unaware of common safety hazards in the workplace. From teenagers who are new to the workforce to older, more experienced employees who may be picking up extra part-time work to earn more money, seasonal employees generally do not have a great deal of knowledge of the company or the facility. This can increase the risk of injuries, particularly if these seasonal workers will be handling machinery or other dangerous equipment.

Tips Employers Should Follow to Protect Seasonal Workers

Employers who tend to hire seasonal workers, particularly during the busy holiday season, should keep the following tips in mind:

  • Make safety a priority:
    – Employers are urged to communicate a safety-first attitude during the interview, at staff meetings, and during so-called toolbox talks. When employers make it clear that safety is a top priority, seasonal workers are more likely to make it a priority as well. Supervisors should not place unreasonable demands on workers or encourage them to take shortcuts that could be unsafe.
    – Managers must provide clear instructions for each task. Stocking shelves, packing boxes, delivering products, and selling merchandise all require specific instructions. Even a seemingly common task requires detailed directions, particularly for new or seasonal workers who have never done that particular type of work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help employers provide training for hands-on equipment, how to recognize workplace hazards, and what to do in an emergency.
    – All employees, including teen workers and other seasonal workers, must know that they have the right to report safety concerns without any concerns of retaliation. Workers should feel comfortable speaking up about any safety concerns they might have. In addition, workers should be warned about hazardous jobs that are prohibited for employees below a certain age.
    – OSHA also provides resources for a range of different types of seasonal workers, including warehouse workers, tractor-trailer drivers, forklift operators, crowd management, and restaurant employers.
  • Wage and hour tips:
    – It is a labor violation to refuse to pay cashiers and salespeople for the time spent on closing out the register, or forcing stockroom personnel to work through their break without being paid, and refusing to provide overtime pay for employees who work more than 40 hours per week.
    – The Department of Labor created compliance assistance toolkits that address federal labor laws that apply to specific industries, including restaurants, resorts and hotels, youth empowerment, and other businesses.
    – The Department of Labor also offers a guide to holiday season employment, which answers a range of commonly asked questions, including the following:

o Is extra pay required for weekend work?
o How many hours is full-time employment?
o How many hours is part-time employment?
o How many hours a week can seasonal employees work?
o When are breaks and meal periods allowed?
o When are pay raises required?
o How are vacation pay, sick pay, and holiday pay computed?

  • Identify specific work hazards: Every job is unique and comes with its own set of challenges and hazards. Job training should address those hazards and ensure that the worker knows the steps to take to avoid them, or what to do if an accident happens. For example, workers who operate machinery must be trained on how to turn on, operate, and turn off the machine, and know the personal protective equipment they must use when operating the machine. Employers should never assume that a worker will figure things out on the job.
  • Encourage teamwork: By teaming a new, seasonal worker with a skilled and experienced worker, the new employee can learn how to do the job safely while getting regular feedback from his or her mentor.
  • Beware of work fatigue: Shift workers and seasonal workers who work long hours can become drowsy while on the job. Fatigue and diminished attention can increase the risk of a workplace accident. Depending on the type of work that the employee does, the resulting injuries can be severe.
  • Give tours of the facility: Managers should show new employees where they will be working and give a tour of the facility so that they know where the bathroom, break rooms, and emergency exits are located. If the worker will be operating equipment, make sure he or she knows where the equipment is located, the location of the personal protective equipment if required, and where that equipment should be returned. In addition, if the job requires the employee to work from elevated surfaces, make sure he or she avoids any unsafe ledges or structures that could cause a serious injury from a fall.
  • Discuss the role of technology: If automated machines or robotic technology is used in the workplace, employers should discuss the role of these machines, including how and when they work, so that seasonal workers are aware of them. This can help prevent accidents.
  • Train employees on how to use safety equipment: From machine guards to safety gates on elevated platforms, it is crucial that seasonal employees understand, and are properly trained, how to use this equipment.

Are Seasonal Workers Entitled to Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

If a temporary, seasonal worker is injured while on the job, he or she will be eligible for Workers’ Compensation in the state of Maryland. In fact, full-time and part-time employees are treated the same when it comes to Workers’ Compensation. That means that if a seasonal worker is injured at work, the employer must follow the state’s Workers’ Compensation laws and offer financial benefits for his or her injuries.

However, it is important for seasonal workers to understand that the Workers’ Compensation claims process can be a bit more complicated for seasonal workers, particularly if he or she was hired through a temp agency. The worker will still be granted Workers’ Compensation benefits, but it may not be clear whether the employer or the temp agency is responsible for providing those benefits. In addition, insurance companies may try to deny coverage if the injured worker was hired through a temp agency. Seasonal workers may be eligible for the following benefits:

  • Medical expenses related to the injury
  • Lost wages
  • Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits
  • Permanent disability (PD) benefits if the injury permanently prevents the employee from being able to return to work

Seasonal workers who do not work during the off-season may not continue to collect TTD benefits during this time. However, if a seasonal worker typically finds another job when the holiday season ends, they may continue to collect TTD benefits if they are unable to work because of the injury.

Common Seasonal Worker Injuries

Depending on the type of work that a seasonal work does, he or she may be at an increased risk of suffering an injury at work. The following are examples of injuries that seasonal workers may suffer:

  • A worker suffers a brain injury after getting knocked over by an angry shopper on Black Friday.
  • A part-time factory worker breaks his leg after falling from a ladder.
  • A seasonal delivery worker suffers a spinal cord injury after being involved in a serious car accident while on the job.
  • An employee suffers from a musculoskeletal injury after lifting a heavy package from a shelf at a distribution center.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Injured Seasonal Workers

If you or someone you know was injured while working as a seasonal worker over the holidays, you are urged to contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We assist clients with every step of the claims process and ensure that they receive the full financial benefits to which they are entitled. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.