Placing employees at host sites comes with an array of questions relating to who assumes various legal responsibilities for workers. One of the key areas for concern is the health and safety of temporary workers. Through its Temporary Worker Initiative the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) lays out clear guidelines for both the temporary staffing agency and the host employer.
While it is clear that there is a shared, or joint, responsibility for maintaining a safe workplace for temporary workers, the extent of the responsibility that legally falls upon either a staffing agency or a host employer will depend on the unique details of each specific incident.
However, the bottom line is that OSHA can hold both the staffing agency and host employer responsible for any OSHA violations. Barrow Group encourages our staffing agency clients to address and clearly define the respective responsibilities for OSHA compliance in their contracts with host employers. This can protect you against the risk of host employers using temporary workers to perform their most hazardous jobs without providing adequate training because they believe the staffing agency assumes all the risk for compliance.
Defining responsibilities for health and safety and making sure your host employers understand that OSHA can hold both parties responsible for violations provides a solid foundation for protecting temporary workers and reducing your potential risk as a staffing agency. A great place to start in doing this is for each entity to carefully consider what hazards they are in a position to prevent or correct. As a rule of thumb, staffing agencies provide more generalized health and safety training. Host employers provide training that is tailored to hazards or safety concerns unique to the host work site as well as any equipment that the temporary employee must use as part of his or her job.
OSHA provides some additional suggestions for staffing agencies, including:
- The key is communication between the agency and the host to ensure that the necessary protections are provided.
- Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers' assigned workplaces. They must ensure that they are sending workers to a safe workplace.
- Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
- Staffing agencies need not become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at their client (host) agencies, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers.
- The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
- And, just as important: Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training and safety and health protections.
Barrow Group provides a level of unsurpassed expertise when it comes to assessing and managing the risks associated with the placement of temporary workers. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact us at 800-874-4798.