Seasonal Worker Safety

Source: Lightfield Studios - 123RF

With the increase in merchandise sales during the holiday shopping season comes an increase in potential hazards for workers in the wholesale, transportation, and retail industries.

Employers should take appropriate actions to protect workers fulfilling customer orders, delivering packages, and managing crowds of shoppers.

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are aware of numerous preventable deaths and disabling injuries of temporary workers.

One example is the death of a 27-year-old worker employed through a staffing agency as an equipment cleaner at a food manufacturing plant. While cleaning a piece of machinery, he came into contact with rotating parts and was pulled into the machine, sustaining fatal injuries.

The manufacturing plant’s procedures for cleaning the equipment were unsafe, including steps in which cleaners worked near the machine while it was energized and parts were moving.

Additionally, while the company’s permanent maintenance employees were provided with training on procedures to ensure workers were not exposed to energized equipment during maintenance or cleaning, this training was not provided to cleaners employed through the staffing agency.

Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. The staffing agency and the staffing agency’s client (the host employer) are joint employers of temporary workers and, therefore, both are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment for those workers.

The staffing agency and the host employer must work together to ensure that the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act) requirements are fully met. See 29 U.S.C. § 651.

OSHA has resources to help keep workers safe at every step along the way in getting gifts from the warehouse to your home.

To ensure that there is a clear understanding of each employer’s role in protecting employees, OSHA recommends that the temporary staffing agency and the host employer set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract.

Including such terms in a contract will ensure that each employer complies with all relevant regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding confusion as to the employer’s obligations.

For youth temp staff, before you start working, you should know what your employer can and cannot require of you. As a young worker you are limited in the types of jobs and number of hours you can work.

The rules are different for agricultural work. States also have rules, and employers must follow both.

Check out for all the information you need to ensure a safe work environment.