OSHA Beefs Up Focus on On-the-Job Injuries by Temporary Workers, Safety Training
A series of reports filed with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) over the last few years related to fatal injuries of temporary employees – many during their first days on a job – made the federal agency take notice and action. In April of 2013, OSHA launched a new initiative to protect temporary workers from workplace hazards. The Temporary Worker Initiative came on the heels of a fatal accident of a 21-year-old temporary employee at a bottling company after he was crushed by a palletizer machine. OSHA cited the company with 12 alleged violations related to the death and an additional $200,000, according to an article written by labor and employment law consultant Richard D. Alaniz, for American Machinist.
These on-the-job fatalities and accidents are in part due to the higher-hazard industries that employ temporary workers, such as construction, manufacturing, and warehousing. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 542 (or 12%) of the 4,693 fatal work injuries reported. Moreover, exacerbating the situation is that temporary workers are usually contracted by temp and staffing agencies. These agencies are responsible for the temps’ Workers Compensation, but they don’t have any control over safety on a job site or at a company’s facilities. Many temps, unfortunately, are not properly trained on health and safety and are working in dangerous jobs that expose them to a greater risk of getting hurt or being killed.
The federal agency in its initiative last year directed “field inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.” The initiative underscores the duty of employers to protect all workers from hazards, and directs inspectors “to determine within the scope of their inspections whether any employees are temporary workers and whether any of the identified temporary employees are exposed to a violative condition. In addition, inspectors should assess – using records review and interviews – whether those workers have in fact received required training in a language and vocabulary they understand.”
OSHA also began working the American Staffing Association and employers that use staffing agencies to promote best practices ensuring that temporary workers are protected from job hazards. The new focus puts accountability for safety on both the employer and the employment agency. “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,” stated David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
What does this mean for employers?
Temporary labor hit a record high in 2013—and was up 9.6% since 2012, with staffing industry analysts predicting that the percentage of temporary workers in the U.S. will increase in 2014. In Part of the uptick of temporary employees may come from the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide affordable health coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours per week. As a result, many expect to see more employers using more part-time workers and hiring more temporary workers who will not be considered eligible for health coverage under the 50-worker minimum.
With this in mind and OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative, it’s a good time to assist companies in reviewing their current relationship with their staffing agency. Companies should be clear on each party’s responsibility and obligations, evaluate their own policies on supervision and job training for temporary employees and their procedures for recording injuries of temporary workers to OSHA. Employers should also be sure to stay current on new developments and that they’re in compliance with new rules and regulations.
Caitlin Morgan provides businesses with Workers Compensation solutions and can provide you with sound options for your insureds and their employees. Give us a call at: 877.226.1027.
Sources: American Machinist, Bureau of Labor Statistics, OSHA, Forbes