The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released a new educational bulletin to help protect temporary workers. The March 13, 2014 bulletin explains reporting requirements for staffing agencies and host employers regarding temporary worker injuries and illnesses. Properly tracking and reporting such injuries and illnesses can help OSHA take the right measures to protect temporary workers and enforce workplace safety standards.
A temporary worker, or temporary employee, is a person who works part-time or full-time for an employer on a temporary basis. Such workers may be called in to cover employees who are on leave, to handle special projects or to address backlogs. They are not expected to remain and are usually requested for a predetermined amount of time. Staffing agencies are the companies that manage temporary workers, creating relationships with employers and providing them with workers as needed.
Though temporary workers may not be expected to remain with an employer, they are still entitled to the same protections as other employees. Employers and staffing agencies have an obligation to implement OSHA standards as they apply not only to other workers but to temporary employees as well.
A newly enhanced focus on temporary worker injuries may have come from a rash of recent accidents, such as the April 2013 death of an Iraq War veteran who was assigned as a temporary worker at a manufacturing plant. He was given the job of scraping adhesive from mixing equipment, a mere 12 inches away from an unguarded shaft that was spinning up to 350 rotations per minute. The sleeve of his too-large coveralls became tangled in the shaft, and he was pulled into the mixer. These and similar incidents have brought up concerns regarding temporary worker safety.
There have been concerns that temporary workers may be assigned more hazardous jobs and that they may have insufficient training to safely carry out these duties. OSHA has expressed concerns that temporary workers are at a higher risk of injury or illness as a result, due to violations of safety standards by staffing agencies and employers alike. Employers should take reasonable measures to protect full-time employees and contractors as well as temporary workers. This includes proper training, safety guards and other measures to help avoid accidents. Staffing agencies should provide temporary workers with information and training regarding general safety. According to the OSHA website, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health was quoted as saying:
"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 temp employee's safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements."
This statement shows that both staffing agencies and employers should properly implement state and federal workplace safety standards to ensure the wellbeing of both temporary workers and existing employees. An example of a staffing agency and employer sharing responsibility may be the staffing agency providing general safety and health training and the employer providing specific training and information tailored to the job at hand, as well as the equipment being used. If both parties take the right steps to train temporary workers and communicate with one another to ensure hazards are recognized and understood, serious accidents and injuries can be avoided.
Temporary workers are entitled to the same protections, training and safety as other workers. If you or someone you love was injured as a temporary worker, it is important to talk to an attorney about your rights and options. As a temporary worker, your right to workers' compensation or other benefits may vary. A Houston injury attorney at The Daspit Law Firm can talk to you about what occurred and can review your relationship with the employer and staffing agency to determine how to best proceed.