OSHA Targets Temporary Workers' Safety
The American Staffing Association (ASA) and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have joined forces to develop and execute a strategic plan focused on protecting the health and safety of temporary workers. OSHA Assistant Secretary David Michaels (right) and Richard Wahlquist, President and CEO of the American Staffing Association (ASA), signing the OSHA and ASA Alliance on May 21, 2014. The formal agreement signed between ASA and OSHA on May 21, 2014 has two prevailing goals:
- To reduce and prevent temporary workers’ exposure to safety and health hazards during assignments
- To educate staffing companies, their clients, and temporary workers about temporary worker rights and employer responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act
Additionally, from a staffing industry perspective, the ASA-OSHA alliance also works toward educating federal officials about the often misunderstood relationship between staffing companies and their clients.
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.
Safety of Temporary Workers – Joint Responsibility of Staffing Agency and Host Employer
Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for temp employee's safety and health. 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 Concerned Staffing Clients May Use Temporary Workers to Avoid Meeting OSHA Obligations
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 – Must Share Safety Responsibilities
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.
ASA is committed to protecting the rights, safety, and well-being of temporary workers—and educating staffing companies, their clients, and temporary workers about temporary worker rights and employer responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Protecting Temporary Workers https://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/
Taking a Strategic Lead on Safety by Adam Stone, originally published in ASA’s Staffing Success, November-December 2014. https://americanstaffing.net/posts/2014/12/08/taking-strategic-lead-safety/