Australian Economy

Food delivery cyclist injuries going under-reported, Sydney study finds | Gig economy

Delivery riders with companies such as Uber Eats or Doordash are more likely to be injured on the job and end up at the emergency department than previously reported, a new study has found.

A pilot study in one Sydney hospital emergency department between May 2019 and April 2020 identified at least 43 cycling-related injuries among commercial riders.

SafeWork NSW had reported 37 pedal cycling injuries associated with commercial delivery across the state during the same period.

The study, published in the biomedical journal Pilot and Feasibility Studies, was conducted by researchers at Macquarie University and St Vincent’s hospital.

“SafeWork NSW uses police and workers’ compensation records to identify injuries to food delivery riders, but our research shows that this data is substantially lower than the real number of cycling-related injuries,” says Macquarie University’s Dr Mitchell Sarkies.

Medical records were analysed for all 386 adults treated for cycling-related injuries at St Vincent’s emergency department over about a year.

Some 43 (12%) were commercial delivery cyclists and 153 (42%) were non-commercial cyclists, while the rest were unidentified.

Sarkies said food delivery riders were 13 times more likely than recreational riders to present to the emergency department between 8pm and midnight than the early hours of the morning.

He said the data suggests these injuries occurred during the busiest evening meal delivery times.

Delivery cyclists were more likely to be male, younger and 11 times more likely to have a primary language other than English.

Over a quarter of the riders (26%) working as independent contractors for multinational giants were not eligible for Medicare, confirming previous claims that “most commercial delivery cyclists are temporary migrants in Australia”.

In a scathing parliamentary report into the gig economy released in April, chair Daniel Mookhey said the precarious job “puts workers in very real danger of injury, abuse and harassment”.

Under Australian labour laws, being an independent contractor means not being entitled to minimum wage, sick leave and annual leave.

At least five food delivery riders in NSW, all from migrant backgrounds, were killed in the space of two months in late 2020 in road accidents while on the job.

Their deaths prompted the establishment of a state government taskforce last year.

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