Temporary Workers' Safety

The business world has changed since the last recession. Companies and organizations have gotten leaner in their staffing, keeping mission critical employees and using temporary workers or contractors to supplement their staff.

This is a cost effective solution for many businesses. With no fringe benefits to pay, a company can contract for the staff it needs over just the period of time needed – meaning no long-term workers’ salaries to pay either.

“The fastest-growing sector in the economy is temporary work,” David Michaels told Safety 2014 attendees. “At the worst of the recession, the temporary jobs were disappearing. Now with the economy coming back, temporary work is going gangbusters.”

However, the concern is that temporary workers are more likely to be hurt on the job than someone who has more experience and who is a permanent employee. Temporary workers:

  • Tend to get the most hazardous jobs.
  • Are more vulnerable to workplace safety and health hazards as well as possible retaliation from their counterparts.
  • May not be given adequate safety and health training or a proper explanation of their duties.

Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for a temp employee’s safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.

David Michaels PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health

Who is responsible for temporary workers’ safety – the hiring company or the staffing agency?

Temporary Workers Safety in hazardous places

The answer: Both. There is a joint responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace for temporary workers. Wny? Because both the hiring employer and the staffing agency share control over the worker, making them jointly responsible for temporary workers’ safety and health.

Each employer needs to consider the hazards it is in a position to prevent and correct and be able to comply with OSHA standards. To demonstrate this point, OSHA gives the example that staffing agencies might provide general safety and health training while the hiring employers provide specific training tailored to the particular workplace equipment and hazards.

As with anything, communication is key, ensuring there is a common understanding of the division of responsibilities for temporary workers’ safety and health.

Staffing agencies should know they are sending workers to a safe environment; claiming ignorance is not an excuse. Agencies need to know:

  • Hazards that may be encountered
  • The best way to ensure protection for a temporary worker
  • That the hiring company is treating temporary workers like any other worker with regards to training, safety and health protection
Temporary Workers Safety_Safety Sign

Staffing agencies must actually verify the hiring company has fulfilled its responsibility for a safe workplace.