As businesses across the country add temporary staff to meet the high demands of the holiday season, OSHA updates temporary worker safety guidance for staffing agencies and employers.
Concerned that employers may not always give equal consideration to temporary workers in regard to obligations under the OSH Act and other worker protection laws, OSHA sets expectations on roles and responsibilities in their “Protecting Temporary Workers” publication.
The safety of temporary workers can be overlooked as they get placed in a variety of jobs that they are not always given adequate training, explanation of duties, or complete safety and health training for. To complicate even further, temporary workers placed by staffing agencies can lead to misunderstanding of the role and duty of all involved.
While the extent of responsibility under the law of staffing agencies and host employers depends on the unique factors in each case, OSHA reminds that both are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and the host employer define their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract.
To work cooperatively in defining roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and sharing responsibility for ensuring temporary worker safety and health, the following should be considered.
- Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assigned workplaces.
- Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
- Staffing Agencies do not need to be experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should communicate with host employers to identify what conditions exist, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection.
- Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training, safety, and health protections.
- Host employers must provide temporary workers with the same safety and personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required for their permanent employees.
OSHA reminds temporary workers that they have the same rights as permanent workers including:
- A safe workplace free of dangers
- Training in clear language that you understand
- Appropriate safety equipment
- Right to identify safety hazards
- Right to report work-related injuries without being punished.