How could the increase of part-time workers affect workplace safety?

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The number of part-time employees in the U.S. has been steadily rising over the past few years in a number of sectors. Part-time employment is defined as fewer than 35 hours of work within one week, and has become increasingly popular for both employees looking for work as well as employers creating positions. 

The workforce has changed over the years and is likely to continue evolving, but the most recent boost in part-time workers dates back to 2007, before the recession. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco explained that the workforce was almost 20 percent part-time workers in 2009. Although it has moved up and down, the general trend is toward more part-time employees. In June 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explained that more than 1 million new part-time employees joined the labor force in that month alone.

But what does this trend mean for businesses and employees? 

Lower costs for companies 
For some companies, part-time workers work well into the business model. Following the timeline of part-time employment increases, there have also been a number of health care reforms. Among these reforms are provisions for employer-assisted health care payments. There has been criticism by some businesses that this reform will cost companies too much. 

One of the benefits of part-time employees is that under these reforms, their health care expenses will be lower than those of full-time employees.

Employee flexibility 
Part-time employment can be beneficial to employees as well. There have been presumptions that people who work part-time jobs would prefer full-time jobs. But according to the recent statistics from the BLS, 840,000 of the more than 1 million part-time employees that were hired as part-time workers wanted these positions as opposed to full-time ones. Part-time employment gives employees the opportunity to pursue other interests, take on supplemental work, go to school or do anything else they want while still working around 30 hours a week.

Safety concerns unknown
Some of the most common part-time employment sectors – grocery, fast food, retail, production, industrial – have dangerous environments for workers where safety precautions are critical. Many of these businesses install protocols and programs, like slip-resistant work shoe payment plans, to ensure their employees' safety. It's unknown what an influx of part-time workers may mean in regard to safety. 

On one hand, they're less experienced in these environments and are more likely to make dangerous mistakes and be injured. On the other hand, new part-time employees will be newly trained, giving employers the opportunity to overhaul their safety programs and teach them to employees fresh. 

More part-time employees could be a great thing for businesses, individuals and the workforce as a whole, but the safety results are unknown for now. 

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