As a host employer for contract workers, if you thought that you didn't have to worry about safety issues, think again. OSHA (the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recently announced that it is increasing its vigilance with regard to temporary worker safety in a memorandum released in April. The agency stated in the memorandum that, "Given the number of temporary workers and the recent high profile fatal incidents, the agency is making a concerted effort using enforcement, outreach and training to assure that temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards."
OSHA's heightened focus on temp worker safety comes on the heels of recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries about the number of workers killed on the job in 2011. The report noted that fatal work injuries involving temps/contractors accounted for 542 or 12% of the 4,693 fatal work injuries reported.
Don't Rely On the Temp Agency
It's important to remember that, despite assurances from temp agencies about "taking care of the OSHA requirements" for temporary workers, in the end, it is the host employer who receives OSHA citations should the contract worker suffer any harm while on the job.
Human Resource Executive Online asks:
Why now and what does it mean for employers? It means, experts say, that employers should never take shortcuts, inadvertent or not, when it comes to temp worker safety, which can happen when contracting with temp services providers.
"Although OSHA recently announced its new initiative to focus more on the safety and health of temporary workers during its inspections at worksites, it's been clear for years that host employers are responsible to ensure that they are in compliance with OSHA requirements for temporary workers whom they are supervising," says Atlanta-based Bill Principe, a partner in the OSHA practice group of Constangy, Brooks and Smith.
So how can host employers ensure they are in compliance with OSHA's standards regarding contract worker safety? According to the article:
New York-based Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of Benjamin Enterprises, a workforce solutions company, and TalentREADY, a talent management provider, says that, as with many of the OSHA rules and regulations, creating detailed, up-to-date documentation is critical to proving that you are complying with the regulations.
"In this case, that means records showing hire date, employee work status, completion of required job training and details of training programs need to be up-to-date, accurate and easily accessible," she says. On the flip side, agencies that provide temporary workers to companies should ensure that the employer is aware of this OSHA initiative and that they are in compliance.
Benjamin says HR and training departments already should be reviewing their current policies and procedures for temporary employees, so they can assess if there are gaps. In her mind, providing the training in a language understood by the employee will have the biggest impact to these departments since most in-house corporate training programs are developed in English.
Developing a Safety & Health Program
Safety and health programs can substantially reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries and alleviate the associated financial burdens on businesses. Many states also have requirements or voluntary guidelines for workplace injury and illness prevention programs. According to OSHA, the best safety and health programs involve every level of the organization, instilling a safety culture that reduces accidents for workers and improves the bottom line for managers.
OSHA has some great online tools to help you develop an effective employee safety and health program. The Safety & Health Management Systems eTool offers management guidance in the form of worksheets, charts and other resources to help you maximize your health and safety program. In addition, this OSHA fact sheet offers a concise but detailed checklist that can help you ensure you're covering all the bases in your health and safety program.
Be sure to visit our Safety & Wellness section to learn more about employer responsibilities when it comes to providing a workplace free from recognized hazards. And don't forget to download our FREE Federal Labor Laws by Company Size Chart to review key laws, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act, that may apply to your business.