The Big Read: Faced with fatigue and rush to meet orders, food delivery riders grapple daily with road safety risks


Responding to TODAY’s queries, NDCA adviser Yeo Wan Ling stressed how vulnerable self-employed people are, in terms of legal protection and fair contract terms, among others.

“Income fluctuations also make it challenging for gig workers to strike a balance between cash flow for business operations and setting aside funds for contingencies, housing, healthcare and retirement,” she said.

Ms Yeo, who is also an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, noted that currently, these workers are unable to claim for work injuries under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) even though they are susceptible to accidents on the road.

“Medical coverage provided by platform operators is currently inadequate and uneven, leaving little to no income support for riders if they are on medical leave,” she said.

She added that the association is saddened by the fatal traffic accidents involving food delivery riders in the past 18 months, and it “strongly (believes) that more can be done to address the well-being and safety of our platform workers who need their livelihoods.” to support themselves and their families.”

Apart from safety concerns, the overall welfare of food delivery riders has also been a source of concern for the Government, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touching on the issue during his National Day Rally speech in August last year.

He pointed out that these gig workers do not have employment contracts, and thus they lack basic job protection that most employees have, such as workplace injury compensation, union representation and employers’ contribution to the Central Provident Fund (CPF).

Speaking to TODAY, Associate Professor Walter Theseira from the Singapore University of Social Sciences said that national standards on insurance and sick leave should be made necessary for such workers, instead of platforms offering voluntary options.

However, the flexible nature of food delivery riders’ work might make such policies hard to mandate, said Dr Woo Jun Jie, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore.

“For instance, riders do not work fixed hours nor are they tied to any specific organisations,” said Dr Woo.

NDCA president Goh Yong Wei reiterated that “adequate” coverage is necessary to allow riders peace of mind when on the road, knowing that they are financially protected should an accident happen.

Mr Goh, who is also a food delivery rider, said: “Most of the platforms offer basic insurance coverage with upgradeable options, but I feel that it’s generally not sufficient. I do buy my own personal accident and hospitalization plans through my insurance agent to ensure I get proper coverage.”

Some experts have suggested that these food delivery platforms leverage technology — such as enhancing the algorithms they use — to enhance riders’ safety.

In a joint essay, Singapore Management University Professor of Information Systems Wang Hai and University of Hong Kong research fellow Sun Hao wrote about how to improve the algorithms used by platforms. Some of the recommendations could make deliveries less stressful for riders, which could in turn improve their safety.

An example is for the algorithm estimating the delivery rider’s time of arrival to include the rider’s mode of transportation as well as information on the delivery location, such as whether the rider needs to use stairs to reach the unit.

This would provide riders with a more reasonable timeframe for deliveries and give them adequate time to arrive. Other suggestions include placing compliance with safety laws as a top factor when evaluating food delivery riders and giving them more orders.

Speaking to TODAY, Prof Wang Hai suggested that traffic police work with food delivery companies to keep track of traffic violations by their riders. They can also work together to share information on accident-prone areas, so that companies can use this data for their algorithm and allow riders more time when passing through such places.

Other features, such as a push notification to inform riders of accident-prone areas, can also serve as a safety reminder.


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