Temporary Worker Safety:
A Shared Responsibility
Creating a safe workplace can be challenging. That’s true even when the job and its hazards don’t change much from day to day. Imagine if your employees worked on a construction site one day and an assembly line the next.
That’s a very real scenario that plays out at staffing agencies every day.
Workers employed through staffing agencies are called temporary or supplied workers. Some show up on a job site with decades of experience. Others are “greenhorns” who don’t understand the hazards of the job or how to protect themselves.
Temporary workers are at double the risk of suffering severe injuries, including crushing incidents, lacerations, punctures and fractures, according to ProPublica. And in 2014, nearly 800 contract workers died on the job, a 47 percent increase since 2011.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognized the trend and launched an initiative to protect temporary workers in 2013. OSHA instructed its inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Inspectors are also evaluating whether temporary workers received necessary safety training.
As we approach the holiday season, retail businesses are beefing up their workforces with temporary labor. OSHA encourages staffing agencies and host employers to follow these best practices:
- Staffing agencies and host employers should remember that OSHA’s General Duty Clause guarantees everyone, including temporary workers, the right to a safe workplace.
- Staffing agencies and host employers share the responsibility for keeping temporary workers safe. Typically, staffing agencies provide general safety training, and host employers provide job-specific training.
- Staffing agencies and host employers should enter a contract. The contract should specify such things as what tasks temporary workers will do, what training they will receive, and who will provide training and personal protective equipment.
- Host employers should never ask temporary workers to do any task they have not been trained to do safely.
- The supervising employer must set up a process for temporary workers to report work-related injuries and illnesses.
- OSHA requires the employer who provides day-to-day supervision to record temporary worker injuries on their OSHA injury and illness log. Day-to-day supervision should be spelled out in the contract.
- Staffing agencies and host employers should jointly investigate accidents, determine root causes and implement corrective measures.