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Protecting the Health and Safety of Temporary Workers

According to the American Staffing Association, there are roughly 17 million temporary and contract workers in the United States. With temporary workers making up a large portion of the workforce, it’s imperative that their health and safety be made a priority. It is the joint-responsibility of staffing agencies and host employers to provide the proper safety training and working conditions for temporary employees.

The Importance of Temporary Worker Safety

Temporary workers are often utilized for hazardous jobs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has found that temporary workers are at a greater risk of workplace illness and injury than permanent employees.

A number of factors contribute to this higher rate of injuries and illnesses among temporary workers, including:

  • Insufficient training for the hazards of the job
  • Quick turnover among temporary workers
  • Decreased access to safety equipment
  • Inferior working conditions in some situations
  • Fear of reporting unsafe working conditions and hazards because of perceived job instability

By law, staffing agencies and host employers are equally responsible for the health and safety of their temporary workers. Accordingly, both staffing agencies and host employers should take steps to protect temporary workers.

How to Protect Temporary Workers

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) created a set of recommendations for host employers and staffing agencies to follow. To protect your temporary workers, consider the following action items:

  • Be able to identify hazards.  It’s important for staffing agencies to be familiarized with workplace safety hazards. Being able to identify the hazards of a worksite can give the staffing agency a better idea of what competencies will be required of the temporary workers.
  • Evaluate the worksite. A walk-through can help the staffing agency identify and potentially remove any hazards found on the worksite that could lead to injury. If a hazard cannot be removed, the hazard should be mitigated and proper training procedures should be established. It’s necessary that agencies communicate this workplace safety analysis to the host employer to ensure safe working conditions for temporary workers. Host employers should accommodate these recommendations in order to maintain a safe working environment.
  • Create a clear contract. The contract between the staffing agency and the host employer should clearly state who is held responsible for the health and safety of the temporary worker. Although having one party responsible may help with implementation, both parties can be held equally responsible for the safety of the temporary worker if an injury was to occur.
  • Establish an injury and illness prevention program. Injury and illness prevention programs are implemented to reduce the severity and recurrence of workplace injury and illness. These prevention programs are useful for employers to address new hazards on an ongoing basis and adjust worker safety training accordingly. Any time a new temporary worker is hired, or a new project begins, the identified hazards and necessary training procedures should be communicated.
  • Conduct the proper safety training. Staffing agencies and host employers are both held responsible for the proper training of temporary workers. While the host employer should provide an in-depth training catered to the temporary worker’s specific job requirements, staffing agencies should also provide general safety training.
  • Communicate with your temporary workers. Staffing agencies should frequently communicate with temporary workers to ensure they feel safe at their worksite and are aware of their right to report any safety concerns. As such, host employers should train temporary workers on how to properly report any potential workplace safety hazards. Staffing agencies have a duty to follow-up with the host employer and work to resolve any safety concerns brought to their attention.
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