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19 November 2018

France: Temporary workers more exposed to occupational risks than other workers

Temporary workers are more exposed to occupational risks than other workers. This finding stems from a new study conducted by DARES, the research and statistics department of the French Ministry of Employment. Temporary workers are greatly exposed to physical stress in their work, with 22% of them having to handle heavy loads for more than 20 hours a week, compared with 12% for the whole French workforce. However, the only physical exposures more present among temporary workers are repetitive work for more than ten hours a week (29% against 21% for the whole workforce), as well as vibrations of the upper limbs (arms, shoulders) (7% against 6%), these differences being significant, everything else being equal.

The situation is more worrying when looking at chemical risks: prevention is seen to be insufficient for 34% of all exposed workers. Though this figure is little different to that for temporary workers (35%), occupational physicians say that they are much more often unable to give an opinion on the quality of the prevention in the case of the latter (34% for temporary workers against 14% for the whole workforce). “Occupational physicians have difficulty gaining information on a number of items concerning temporary workers”, said Thomas Coutrot, head of the department for working conditions and health at DARES. Moreover, though they are supposed to receive temporary workers every time the latter take up work, in practice, this is far from being the case.” In addition, occupational physicians are more likely to find the quality of prevention to be bad or very bad among temporary workers.

However, temporary workers seem less exposed than average to carcinogens (19% against 25% for the whole workforce). In the view of DARES, this gap can be explained by specific legislation prohibiting the use of temporary work under certain conditions.  But it may also be the result of an “underestimation” of temporary workers' exposure "by the investigating doctors". Indeed, DARES notes that temporary workers often "stay at their workplaces only for a short time", making it "more difficult for the doctors to gain in-depth knowledge of their concrete situations.”

When exposed to a carcinogen, temporary workers only have twin (individual and collective) protection in 18% of cases (against 28% overall). By contrast, for 50% of them (against 32%), no individual or collective protection was noted by the occupational physicians. "These findings highlight the need to better organise the monitoring of temporary workers, especially with regard to chemical risks.”

read more : Dares report, October 2018 

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