Protecting Temporary Workers

OSHA and the American Staffing Association are working together to protect temporary workers.  A press release issued by OSHA on October 25, 2016, announced the renewal of its alliance with the American Staffing Organization (ASA), intended to protect Temporary Workers.  Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels commented, “It is part of our mission to make sure that at the end of every work shift, all temporary workers in the United States are able to go home safely to their families.  Through our continued alliance with the ASA, we will increase outreach to staffing agencies and host employers and provide information and education that is essential to protecting temporary workers.”

The goal of this alliance is to continue educating workers about their rights and train staffing firms and their clients on their responsibilities to protect workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The partners will also work together to distribute information on how to recognize and prevent workplace hazards and to develop ways of communicating this information to staffing firms, host employers and temporary workers.  OSHA has also dedicated a web page to the safety of Temporary Workers.  The resources available on this page include a video on the responsibilities of host employers, recommended practices, safety bulletins, news releases and other sources of information.  The following article discusses the Employer Responsibilities for protecting temporary workers and is excerpted from https://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/index.html.

Employer Responsibilities to Protect Temporary Workers*

To ensure that there is a clear understanding of each employer’s role in protecting employees OSHA recommends that the temporary staffing agency and the host employer set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract. Including such terms in a contract will ensure that each employer complies with all relevant regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding confusion as to the employer’s obligations.

Joint Responsibility

While the extent of responsibility under the law of staffing agencies and host employers is dependent on the specific facts of each case, staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers – including, for example, ensuring that OSHA’s training, hazard communication, and recordkeeping requirements are fulfilled.

OSHA could hold both the host and temporary employers responsible for the violative condition(s) – and that can include lack of adequate training regarding workplace hazards. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the worker, and are therefore jointly responsible for temporary workers’ safety and health.

OSHA has concerns that some employers may use temporary workers as a way to avoid meeting all their compliance obligations under the OSH Act and other worker protection laws; that temporary workers get placed in a variety of jobs, including the most hazardous jobs; that temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace safety and health hazards and retaliation than workers in traditional employment relationships; that temporary workers are often not given adequate safety and health training or explanations of their duties by either the temporary staffing agency or the host employer. Therefore, it is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.

Both Host Employers and Staffing Agencies Have Roles

Both host employers and staffing agencies have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and they share responsibility for ensuring worker safety and health.

A key concept is that each employer should consider the hazards it is in a position to prevent and correct, and in a position to comply with OSHA standards. For example: staffing agencies might provide general safety and health training, and host employers provide specific training tailored to the particular workplace equipment/hazards.

  • The key is communication between the agency and the host to ensure that the necessary protections are provided.
  • Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assigned workplaces. They must ensure that they are sending workers to a safe workplace.
  • Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
  • Staffing agencies need not become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at their client (host) agencies, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers.
  • The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
  • And, just as important: Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training and safety and health protections.

* From OSHA’s webinar with the American Staffing Association

-Information excerpted from https://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/index.html and https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=33339