Used with permission from AmTrust Financial.
More than three million.
That’s how many temporary and contract employees work for America’s staffing companies during an average week, according to the American Staffing Association (ASA).
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.
Working Hard to Keep Temporary Employees Safe
Since its creation in 1970, OSHA has had a clearly defined mission: to ensure that every working man and woman in the nation is employed under safe and healthful working conditions. In OSHA’s eyes, temporary employees are entitled to the same protections as all other covered workers.
“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 Workers Have a Higher Risk of Injury
When it comes to temporary employees and their safety, OSHA has several concerns. The first being that host employers could be using temporary workers as a way to get around compliance obligations and other worker safety laws. Other key concerns include:
- 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.
Compliance Takes Collaboration
While their business objectives may differ, staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a healthy and safe work environment for temporary employees. To ensure their well-being, OSHA recommends that agencies and employers do the following:
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.
Two agencies, one goal
OSHA isn’t the only agency that looks out for the wellbeing of temporary workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries and illnesses. The agency’s website hosts an array of resources linked to workplace safety and health, from accident prevention videos to health hazard evaluations.
A safe and successful workplace starts with having the right resources and safeguards in place. Comprised of risk management specialists, AmTrust’s Loss Control Team is dedicated to helping businesses like yours create a loss prevention program that addresses the specific risks of your operation. As an AmTrust policyholder, you’ll have access to a series of industry-specific training videos along with a host of other risk management solutions.
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.
This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information