Introduction To ensure the health and safety of workers, most jurisdictions have implemented workplace inspection and audit systems. This presentation examines OHS in the context of the growing ‘sharing economy’, taking the case of Uber ride-sharing, who claim to keep self-employed drivers safe through measures including peer-to-peer ratings. We address the question: what is the Uber peer-topeer rating system and how does it work (or not) as part of an occupational health and safety system?
Method We conducted a critical interpretive study of ride sharing with Uber drivers, passengers and management, taxi managers and related policy makers in Ontario, Canada. Data include interviews and focus groups with 50 participants. These were recorded verbatim, coded and analysed using systematic strategies of constant comparison, consideration of deviant cases, and narrative analysis.
Results Despite Uber drivers being classified as ‘self-employed’ and Uber touting their ability to rate and choose their passengers, we find that drivers had few free choices. Drivers could not easily avoid undesirable passengers as they received app warnings that cancelled rides or non-pick up (despite passenger rating) could result in removal from the app. Driver ratings of passengers were tempered by having to rate them at ride end, before passengers ‘rate drivers back’. To avoid low ratings by passengers, drivers rated them high. They also engaged in unsafe activities, including agreeing to carry excessive passengers and speeding. In addition, passenger ratings of drivers were idiosyncratic; low ratings of drivers sometimes reflected refusal to engage in unsafe activity.
Conclusion Peer-to-peer rating systems are created in complex circumstances of pressure from Uber and passengers. If drivers freely exercised their choice to decline unsafe rides, they could lose access to the Uber app and their income source. Overall, ratings were a source of stress for drivers and not an indicator of safety.
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