According to the American Staffing Association (ASA), that’s how many temporary and contract employees clock in during an average workweek.
Helping keep the economy rolling, the staffing and recruiting industry provides job and career opportunities for more than 15 million U.S. employees each year, per the ASA. No matter the industry or assignment, businesses employing temporary workers have an obligation to keep them safe.
The agency responsible for making sure the job’s done right is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2018, OSHA sharpened its focus on the safety of temporary personnel with the release of its guidance on lockout/tagout training requirements for temporary workers. It’s one of three documents specific to this class of employees that OSHA released last year.
“OSHA has for a while recognized the potential that these temporary workers are possibly falling through cracks from a safety training standpoint,” explains Jeff Corder, vice president of loss control at AmTrust North America, a multinational property and casualty insurer that writes coverage for staffing agencies.
To help keep temporary employees out of harm’s way, OSHA launched the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) in 2013. The agency continues to be an active advocate for temporary worker safety, paying close attention to the risks these employees face when introduced to unfamiliar environments. A list of the TWI bulletins issued to date can be found here.
- Temporary employees are more vulnerable to accidents because of their limited time on the job.
- Not all temporary workers receive the training needed to perform their jobs safely; additionally, these employees may not have a thorough understanding of their duties.
- Temporary team members are more likely to be retaliated against by the host employer for reporting a health or safety violation – or engaging in another type of whistleblowing.
Perform your due diligence
Staffing agencies have a duty to investigate the conditions of each client’s workplace before initiating an employee’s placement. Additionally, the staffing agency should follow up with every host employer to verify that the company is fulfilling its responsibilities as a safe employer. On the employer side, companies working with staffing agencies need to verify that any contracts accurately reflect which party is responsible for compliance with various OSHA guidelines.
Understand and anticipate potential risks
While staffing agencies aren’t expected to become experts on specific workplace hazards, they need to determine what hazards exist and how best to protect temporary workers before they start an assignment. Keeping employee safety top of mind, the host employer must implement and enforce a workplace safety program, and continually assess its environment for potential hazards. A collection of recommended practices for safeguarding temporary workers is available in this free PDF.
Have ongoing communication
Consistent dialogue between the staffing agency and the host employer is the only way to ensure that temporary employees receive all the safety protections they deserve.
Treat temporary workers like any other employee
Every employee, regardless of employment status, is worthy of the same level of respect and training, especially when it comes to health and safety procedures.
Even when workplace safety is a priority, accidents can happen. As one of the nation’s largest workers’ compensation insurance providers, AmTrust provides coverage designed to protect your business and your employees in the event of a workplace illness or injury.
Every employee has a right to work in a healthy and safe environment. Working closely with staffing agencies, businesses big and small must be diligent about protecting their employees, including temporary workers.
For answers to frequently asked questions about workplace safety and a list of links to related resources, visit OSHA’s Employer Section.