The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is coming down hard on both light industrial host employers and their staffing firms when it comes to the safety of temporary staff. This is happening for several reasons. First, temporary workers are more likely to be hurt on the job than their full-time counterparts. Second, OSHA is fully aware that some employers may use temporary workers as a way to cut corners, either to avoid meeting compliance obligations or to place temps in the most hazardous (least desirable) jobs.
Your staffing firm is your employment partner. As partners, you are both responsible for keeping employees safe, whether those employees are permanent, contract or temporary. Here are four ways to make that happen.
- Know the laws: Some laws regarding workplace safety have remained the same for decades. Others have changed over the years. Start by knowing OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy well, says Russell Carr founder and principal of Austin-based Berg Compliance Solutions, LLC, which provides OSHA Texas Safety Training as well as services addressing Texas Environmental Regulations.“The doctrine goes into detail about how OSHA views the various types of employers and corresponding responsibilities and liabilities for each,” he explains. “It contains the fundamental laws regarding temporary workers and staffing agencies.”
- Expect your staffing firm to hold YOU to high standards: Why? Because OSHA certainly will. Your staffing firm should be aware of your particular workplace hazards. Its representatives should inquire about and verify your workplace safety before allowing their temps to work with you. When it’s all said and done, your oversights are their oversights. Depending on the situation, staffing firms and host employers are jointly responsible for OSHA requirements in training, hazard communication and recordkeeping.One of OSHA’s golden rules is to treat temporary workers the way you would treat any other worker when it comes to training, safety and health. Any staffing firm worth partnering with will hold you to that golden rule.
- Train temps well: OSHA has found that temporary workers are not always given adequate safety and health training or explanations of their duties by either the staffing firm or the host employer. OSHA standards require onsite and task-specific safety and health training in a language each worker understands. Staffing firms will often provide general safety and health training, while host employers provide specific training tailored to particular workplace hazards.For more information and tips when it comes to safety training, read OSHA’s Recommended Practices on Protecting Temporary Workers.
- Give temps the tools and time they need to stay safe: OSHA recently issued guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), placing host employers and staffing firms jointly responsible to ensure temporary workers are protected from hazards. According to Thomas Galassi, director of enforcement programs for OSHA,“Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections [for electrical wiring], among others.”
Even issues like heat acclimation for outdoor temp workers can be an issue. In a Cal/OSHA investigation of 25 heat-related outdoor worker illnesses in 2005, 80 percent of the workers involved had been on the job less than four days. Give new workers—including temps—time to learn and acclimate themselves to the job.
Keeping all employees safe on the job should be a top priority. Doing so for temporary staff is no different. If you have questions on how a light industrial staffing partner can help, feel free to ask us.
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