Gig workers earn income by contracting with employers, employment agencies or digital platforms for short-term projects. Sometimes, gig work refers specifically to jobs acquired by logging onto an app. However, the difference between working for a rideshare service and setting up an e-commerce site can make the term “gig economy” broad and vague. Nevertheless, all Minnesota gig workers should understand that the economy often comes with unique safety risks.

Gig work is considered the most popular alternative to traditional employment arrangements. A survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that independent contractors account for 7.4 percent of the total workforce. A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 8 percent of U.S. adults earned income from online gig work in 2015, with 29 percent saying that the work was necessary for their basic needs.

Experts say that many gig economy jobs are dangerous. For example, bicycle messengers face high injury and fatality rates. As independent contractors, gig workers are not covered under workers’ compensation or minimum wage laws.

To recognize the validity of gig workers as employees, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance giving independent contractors the ability to collectively bargain with companies. This could help raise wages, cut down the need to overwork for subsistence and ultimately decrease safety risks.

In some cases, independent contractors should actually be classified as employees who have access to workers’ compensation. To receive these benefits, there’s no need to prove that anyone was at fault for a job injury; however, the amount will be limited by a cap. If an accident is a clear result of negligence, the victim could hire a lawyer for help with a personal injury claim.