Protecting Temporary Workers

Temporary workers

Temporary workers have the same right to safety and health in the workplace as every-day workers–this should seem obvious. This right entitles temporary workers to the same level of training and protection that full-time workers receive when exposed to workplace hazards or undertaking hazardous tasks.

Recently, OSHA has expressed concerns that some employers may use temporary workers to avoid safety and health requirements mandated by the OSH Act, such as safety training, recordkeeping, and more. Or, equally concerning, the temporary workers are not sufficiently trained due to a lack of communication between the employer and staffing agency.

Temporary workers, who may be at a disadvantage due to limited English proficiency, are often placed in the most hazardous positions with a disproportionately low amount of training. The fault lies with a lack of coordination between the employer and staffing agency–something OSHA hopes to address by beginning work with the American Staffing Association and employers that use staffing agencies.

Meeting safety and health requirements for temporary workers is a joint responsibility. Temporary workers should have workplace safety and hazard communication, which can be provided in part by the staffing agency, with site-specific training provided by the employer. The employer should also meet requirements for recordkeeping.

Remember, the provision of a safe and healthy work environment is not just an OSHA requirement; it is a Worker Right. “Workers must be safe,” says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, “whether they’ve been on the job for one day or for 25 years.”