The Gig Economy and Workplace Violence

Topics: Loss Control

Summary: As the popularity of ride-sharing and food delivery services grew, so did the potential for workplace violence in these fields. Learn how the gig economy labor force became front-line workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and saw an increase in violent incidents.

Gig workers and workplace violence

What is the Gig Economy?

The gig economy is based on flexible, temporary and freelance jobs performed by independent and knowledge-based workers. Gig workers can provide various services, from ride-sharing and food delivery to home repair and consulting. Historically, gig workers have been deemed as independent contractors and not employees. They do not receive benefits, insurance options, or a retirement plan and payroll taxes are not taken out of their checks. Gig companies also do not pay into workers’ compensation and other state programs.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Gig Economy

The gig economy steadily grew before 2020, with 30 million Americans getting their primary income from gig labor work. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and impacted the gig economy in both negative and positive ways. Ride-sharing services dropped, but home delivery services grew. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the gig economy is projected to reach a gross volume of $455.2 billion by 2023. Statista predicted in early 2020 that the U.S. would have 86.5 million independent gig workers or 50.9% of the workforce by 2027.

A recent survey by daVinci Payments found that the gig economy grew 33% in 2020 despite the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Increase in Violence Towards Gig Workers

Violence towards food and meal delivery workers has increased in the past year. Violent acts include being robbed, carjacked, shot and even killed while making deliveries. Police in several major cities, including Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Washington D.C., have seen a rise in car thefts and carjacking from food delivery workers leaving their cars running when dropping off food during the pandemic.

Even before the rise of violent crime against gig workers in the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupation Injuries listed delivery drivers in their top ten most dangerous jobs in America, with nearly one out of every five fatally injured workers employed as a driver/sales worker or truck driver. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for these types of drivers.

Gig worker companies, such as Uber, DoorDash, Lift, Instacart and GrubHub have increased safety measures to protect their drivers. These steps include verification measures, emergency assistance buttons in their apps and working with local law enforcement investigations and risk management solutions to keep their drivers safe.

Protection Against Workplace Violence for Gig Workers

Since gig workers are independent contractors and not considered a business’s employees, they might not receive specific workplace safety training, including training to prevent workplace violence incidents. Safety training may be necessary for gig workers to recognize the warning signs, learn violence prevention strategies and understand procedures to respond to threatening or potentially violent incidents, including active shooter events. Gig workers may need personal protective equipment or devices to reduce the risk of workplace violence. Also, gig companies should partner with their workers to develop methods for reporting safety concerns and injuries while on the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 currently does not protect gig workers or independent contractors. However, Section 5 (a) (1) of the Act, commonly known as the General Duty Clause, does require employers to protect workers from workplace violence incidents even in the absence of specific industry regulations. The ruling interpreted broadly can refer to gig workers with higher exposure and risk for workplace violence.

Younger Workforce Safety Training

The gig economy attracts younger workers with minimal work history and little experience with potential workplace hazards, which leads to gig workers being prone to more on-the-job injuries. Without the proper new-hire safety training, gig workers may lack the skills they need to perform their jobs safely and be prepared for potentially violent situations. OSHA has provided workplace resources for younger workers to keep them safe and healthy while at work.

AmTrust is a Leader in Workers’ Compensation

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department offers a variety of workplace safety resources designed to help your organization take a proactive approach in reducing incidents on the job. If you have independent contractors, ask your AmTrust agent about workers’ compensation workplace violence prevention tips available from the AmTrust Loss Control Department.

AmTrust is a leading workers’ compensation carrier for small to mid-sized businesses across the country. Contact us to learn how we can create a small business insurance package, including workers’ comp insurance, for your organization.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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