Protecting Temporary Employees | OSHA Regulations

Posted October 27, 2014

Due to its previous concerns, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released new documentation late this summer outlining recommendations for protecting temporary workers.  “The OSHA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are ware of numerous preventable deaths and disabling injuries of temporary workers,” the documentation expresses.  “Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safety and healthy workplace.”

When hiring temporary staff that’s employed by a staffing agency, the lines on who is responsible for ensuring that the employee is protected under all guidelines of the OSHA can get blurry.  The new recommendations guideline aims to alleviate some of that confusion in order to make sure all requirements are being met by both staffing agency and host company.  Continue reading the key points below to make sure your organization is in compliance with these new standards.

Where does the responsibility fall?

To ensure that both the organizations understand their role in protecting temporary employees, OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and host employer set out their agreement on OSHA compliance in their contract.  This confirms that both employers comply with relevant regulations and avoids later confusion surrounding their obligations.

Joint Responsibility

Because the staffing agency and the host agency are joint employers, both are responsible under the law for providing and maintaining a safe work environment.  The extent of each employer’s obligations varies on a case-by-case basis.  Both agencies must ensure that any OSHA training, communication, and recordkeeping requirements are fulfilled.  If there is a violation, OSHA has the power to hold both employers responsible for the violation.

Recommendations for the Staffing Agency

While staffing agencies shouldn’t need to become experts of specific workplace hazards, they should determine how to best ensure the safety of their workers.  The OSHA recommends a few actions that should be taken.

  • Evaluating the host employer’s worksite.  Before accepting a new host employer as a client, the staffing agency should request to jointly review all worksites to which the worker might be sent, along with the task assignments and job hazard analyses.  The staffing agency should also provide a document to the host employer that specifies their worker’s specific training and competencies related to the work that will be performed.
  • Train agency staff to recognize health and safety hazards.  By teaching agency staff about basic safety principles and workplace hazards, the staff will be better equipped to spot hazards and work with the host company to eliminate or reduce those hazards.

Recommendations for the Host Employer

Since the host employer typically has more knowledge of OSHA regulations in their industry, they should hold the most responsibility for making sure the employee is working under safe conditions. Here are a few of the OSHA recommendations for the Host Employer.

  • Injury and Illness tracking.  Employer knowledge and investigation of workplace injuries is essential in the prevention of future injuries.  The host employer should inform the staffing agency immediately if a temporary worker is injured, so that the agency is aware of the hazards facing its workers.  OSHA requires that injury and illness logs be kept by the employer who is providing the day-to-day supervision.  Therefore, the employer cannot contract away this responsibility to the staffing agency.
  • Conduct Safety and Health Training and New Project Orientation.  OSHA standards require on-site, task specific, safety and health training.  Therefore, this training must be provided by the host employer.   The training provided must be identical or equivalent to that provided to the host employers’ full-time staff.  The host employer should inform the staffing agency when specific training has been completed.
  • Injury and Illness Prevention Program.  In addition to investigating illness and injury, it is recommended that the host employer have a safety program to reduce the number and severity of workplace incidents for all of their employees including temporary workers.  This safety program should be communicated at the beginning of each new project and shared with the staffing agency.

All organizations, whether they are staffing agencies or host employers, should make the safety and health of their employees’ top priority.  It takes cooperation between both organizations, to ensure workers receive the upmost protection.

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