Why Holding Multiple Jobs Can Affect Employee Safety

Today’s “gig economy” has companies hiring more contractors and workers often juggling several jobs at a time. As a result, many Americans today have alternative employment situations outside of the traditional eight-hour schedule. Those who hold multiple jobs may do so in order to meet their monthly expenses, pay off debt, or earn extra money for discretionary purchases or savings. Working multiple jobs is a growing trend that may hold benefits for employers and employees alike – but it may also present additional risks.

Research done by Liberty Mutual [1]suggests that Americans with multiple jobs have higher rates of work- and non-work-related injury compared to single jobholders (27 percent higher and 34 percent higher, respectively). The study also notes changes in the American business landscape, such as adults moving in and out of jobs more frequently and a rise in the number of contract workers, freelancers, and people working from home. In fact, recent estimates suggest that as many as 14 million U.S. adults fall into the category of multiple jobholder in a given week.[2]

Why Are Multiple Jobholders at Higher Risk? 

Whether workers hold multiple jobs by choice or necessity, the circumstances of their employment differ from those who have only one job. Multiple jobholders work longer hours overall, have longer commuting times, get less sleep, and have less time for non-work activities than single jobholders, notes Helen Marucci-Wellman, Sc.D., the study’s principal researcher. Other factors that increase the risk of injury for multiple jobholders include a disruptive workweek structure, working odd hours or extended shifts, job inexperience, hurried behavior, and stressors related to switching between different jobs.[3] The fatigue caused by unconventional work schedules contributes to its own set of risks for workers, including injuries at and outside the workplace, motor vehicle crashes, and negative effects on family life. [4]

Who Is Most at Risk?

The risk of injury is higher for multiple jobholders who are women, workers aged 18 to 44, “blue-collar” workers, people who live alone, and those with some college education. [5] However, multiple jobholders themselves aren’t the only ones at risk. As employment relationships change, companies have less incentive to go the extra mile to ensure safe working conditions, which can raise the risk of workplace injury for single and multiple jobholders alike, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). [6]

While holding multiple jobs has historically been driven by necessity, today increasing numbers of people are voluntarily taking on multiple jobs for a variety of reasons. Either way, the risks of injury are the same. To enhance safety for this group, Dr. Marucci-Wellman says we’ll need additional details on employment situations and circumstances around injuries. By doing so, we can determine where changes need to be made to enhance safety for those who are at increased risk.

 

 

 

[1] Marucci-Wellman, H.R., Willetts, J.L., Lin, T.C., et al. (2014). Work in multiple jobs and the risk of injury in the U.S. working population. AJPH, 104(8), 134-142. http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2013.301431.

[2] Marucci-Wellman, H.R., Lin, T.C., Willetts, J. L., Brennan, M.J. and Verma, S.K. (2014). Differ­ences in time use and activity patterns when adding a second job: Implications for health and safety in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 104(8), 1488-1500.

[3]Ibid.

[4]OSHA, Adding Inequality To Injury: The Costs Of Failing To Protect Workers On The Job

[5]Marruci-Wellman, H.R., et al. (2014).

[6]OSHA.

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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.