OSHA and Temporary Workers: What Recruiters Need To Know A Year Later

One year ago this April, OSHA announced a new series of laws that affect how staffing and recruiting companies work with host employers in the training and protection of temporary workers.

To recap, here’s why the changes were needed.

  • In 2011, 12% of the 4,693 fatal work injuries in the U.S. were suffered by temp workers.  This represents a disproportionate number of fatalities as temp workers represent only 2% of the total workforce.
  • In 2012 overall fatalities dropped to 4,383, but, according to OSHA, “Companies are expected to employ many more temporary workers as the Affordable Care Act is implemented.”
  • In February 2013, OSHA cited Bacardi Bottling Corp for the death of a 21-year-old temporary worker his first day on the job. Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis was crushed to death by a palletizer machine at the Jacksonville facility in August 2012. As a result, OSHA’s new guidelines called for much stricter supervision of workplace conditions, better employee training and stronger communication between agencies and host companies.

Given these statistics, the guidelines call for inspectors to assure temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards, review records, and interview temp workers to discover if they got the required training and in a language they understand. If these laws are violated both host and temp employers may be held jointly responsible.  That can result in big fines, possible legal action and even closing of businesses.

OSHA Compliance for Temporary Workers Checklist

As staffing and recruiting professionals are well aware, the contingent workforce is currently on the rise.

To ensure you are well prepared and protected, if and when an inspection occurs, use these suggestions from OSHA to identify if you are compliant with the regulations as they relate to temporary workers.

  • Clarify responsibilities of both staffing and host company. This includes determining who is responsible for safety training, hazardous materials, record-keeping and reporting of injury or illness.
  • Identify process for onboardingEnsure that your agency has provided the proper initial training required, and clarify that the host employer will be providing additional workplace-specific training. OSHA’s guidelines state that these trainings are to be shared by the temporary agency and the host employer, who must “[provide] the workplace-specific training appropriate to the employees’ particular tasks.”
  • Conduct on-site visits.  Now staffing agencies have a duty to assess the conditions of their temp workers’ workplaces.  Onsite visits ensure that staffing representatives are knowledgeable as it relates to the safety of the workplace.
  • Understand injury reporting.  OSHA states that generally, the host company should keep injury and illness records because they typically maintain day-to-day supervision over workers.  While the staffing agency may have a representative at the host employer’s worksite, the presence of that representative does not necessarily transfer recordkeeping responsibilities to the staffing agency.

Use the above as a quick checklist to identify whether or not appropriate action has been taken given the guidelines that OSHA rolled out last year.

Next Steps to Ensure Compliance

If you identify that there are some areas of opportunity, consider these next steps as a starting point.

  1. Discuss temporary worker OSHA requirements with the companies you work with.
  2. Develop guidelines and checklists to help the companies you work with efficiently and effectively onboard temporary workers.
  3. Identify if on-site visits need to be mapped into your workflow.
  4. Audit the level of documentation you currently have and compare that to industry standards.

In his 2013 article for Human Resource Executive Online, Tom Starner discussed the dilemma of documentation with Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of Benjamin Enterprises and TalentREADY.  Benjamin stressed the importance of keeping up-to-date documentation to prove compliance, which would include keeping records that show the following:

  • Hire date
  • Employee work status
  • Completion of required job training
  • Details of training programs

Benjamin suggests that agencies providing temporary workers to companies should ensure that the employer is aware of this OSHA initiative and that they are in compliance.

Going forward, staffing agencies will have to be more vigilant about the training they provide temporary workers, including educating them on OSHA standards and regulations.  They will also have to have plans in place for injury reporting.

Here is where recruiting software can play a critical role in reducing risks for temporary employees and potential liabilities for the staffing agency. Recruiting and staffing software can and should enable you to establish a workflow process that ensures that every temp hire is onboarded and trained appropriately, and that each of these steps are well-documented. Further, the workflow processes can include OSHA-recommended steps for the staffing firm to implement and document.

For more insight on staffing and recruiting industry issues, management, and trends, download our whitepaper on how the Affordable Care Act will impact the staffing and recruiting industry.

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