Schools are out and many organizations bolster their staffs with temporary or seasonal help. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American Staffing Association recently signed an alliance to work together to further protect temporary employees from workplace hazards. OSHA has been monitoring and reporting on the state of temporary worker safety through its National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health's (NACOSH) Temporary Worker workgroup very closely as this sector has grown. ASA, founded in 1966, serves as the voice of the U.S. staffing and recruiting industry. With more than 1,600 members, ASA advances the interests of staffing and recruiting firms through advocacy, public relations and education.
Both groups firmly believe that all workers have the right to be safe, regardless of how long they have been on the job.
After their meeting in late May, the two organizations announced an outreach program that will seek to educate temporary workers about their rights and teach staffing firms and their clients about their responsibility to protect workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH). This was following the early May meeting of NACOSH Temporary Worker group to discuss gaps in temporary worker health and safety training.
During a meeting last summer, NACOSH discussed rising concerns about temporary worker safety. One example shared with the group involved a 21 year-old male temporary worker that died his first day on the job at bottling plant in Florida. The young man was crushed to death while cleaning glass from inside a palletizer. An investigation revealed that he was never trained in the Lockout/Tagout procedures, simple, but mandatory protocols that would have saved his life. Numerous examples of temporary workers having fatal injuries within their first few days on the job were cited. Given the growing size of the temporary workforce, OSHA instructed its inspectors to pay particular attention to whether or not employers were complying with their responsibilities under the OSH Act when it comes to temporary employees.
OSHA and NACOSH believe one huge step toward protecting temporary workers is education. That's why the alliance with the ASA is critical. "Through this alliance with the ASA, we will increase outreach to staffing agencies and host employers and provide information and education that is vital to protecting temporary workers," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.
Who is Protected?
For OSHA's initiative, "temporary workers" are defined as those supplied to a host employer and paid by a staffing agency. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes contingent workers, independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers and workers employed by contract firms in its "temporary worker" category. Regardless of the category, it's important that managers know employees are protected under the OSH Act, regardless of their status. . Apparently, one pitfall that the NACOSH meeting brought to light is that often times managers or supervisors, even owners, will ask a temporary employee if he or she is familiar with a piece of equipment. The employee may be embarrassed to admit that he or she is not. Employers must be careful to not take for granted that a temporary worker has already received adequate training elsewhere—by law everyone on the work site has the right to safe working conditions and it is always the employer’s responsibility to provide proper training or demonstrate that the employee has had the proper training through documentation. No exceptions.
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