OSHA’s Initiative on Temporary Workers

Contributed by Julie Proscia

On Memorial Day Weekend, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an initiative to focus more on the safety and health of temporary workers after a recent spate of temporary worker fatalities. This initiative is now being put into action.

Assistant Secretary of Labor, David Michaels, made the announcement by releasing a memorandum to each of the regional administrators, directing all field inspectors to make a “concerted effort using enforcement, outreach and training to assure that temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards.” This new initiative impacts both the staffing agencies that supply temporary workers, as well as businesses that utilize temporary labor. The memorandum outlines new checks inspectors should make during worksite inspections, including an initial determination as to whether or not any temporary workers are employed, and then an assessment as to whether the workers are exposed to conditions in violation of OSHA rules, as well as, whether or not the workers received safety and health training “in a language and vocabulary they understand.”

The last part is the step that many employers miss.  Unfortunately, when you have temporary employees working for a few days or for a week, it is easy to forget to train them on anything more than basic safety.  However, OSHA requires that temporary employees, like our regular employees, receive safety training prior to operating any machinery or engaging in any activity that poses safety or health risks.  Likewise, just because the employee is temporary does not exempt them from donning all proper safety equipment, including safety goggles and steel toe boots.

If inspectors do find temporary workers, the memo directs them to “document the name of the temporary workers’ staffing agency, the agency’s location, and the supervising structure under which the temporary workers are reporting (i.e., the extent to which the temporary workers are being supervised on a day-to-day basis, either by the host employer or the staffing agency).”

OSHA fines can reach the hundreds of thousands and can add up quickly especially if any previous findings have been levied. The easiest way to comply is to ensure that your temporary employees receive proper safety training prior to their start time.  This training must be in the language and vocabulary that the temporary employee can understand, and should be documented to preempt potential OSHA violations and reduce injuries.