What actions should I take to protect temporary workers under my employment?
All workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace. The staffing agency, as well as the staffing agency’s client (the host employer) are considered to be joint employers of temporary workers. Therefore, both parties are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe workplace for temporary workers. As such, both the staffing agency and the host employer, through mutual collaboration and cooperation, must work together to ensure that all health and safety laws, standards, and regulations are met (for a look at the difference between American and European laws, see Comparing EU Health & Safety Laws Across the Pond).
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) have a set of practices for staffing agencies and host employers. Acting on these will help ensure the safety of temporary workers during their assignments:
- Evaluate the Host Employer’s Worksite. Prior to working with a new host employer as a client, the staffing agency must review all worksites to which the temporary worker may be assigned. This may be done by conducting job hazard analyses to identify or eliminate potential health and safety hazards (consult our 4 Steps to Conducting Efficient Job Safety Analyses for more detailed advice). It is advised that staffing agencies enlist the help of a safety and health consultant. If hazards are found, staffing agencies should work with their clients to resolve them.
- Train Agency Staff to Recognize Safety and Health Hazards. Teach agency staff about basic safety principles and the hazards commonly faced by temporary workers (see Transient Workers vs. Temporary Workers: Know Your Training Obligations for more).
- Assign Occupational Safety and Health Responsibilities and Define the Scope of Work in the Contract. The responsibilities of both the staffing agency and the host employer should be well described and defined in a contract agreement with the temporary worker. Additionally, the tasks that the temporary worker is expected to perform, as well as their safety and health responsibilities should also be clearly defined in the agreement and should be communicated to them prior to the commencement of any job activities.
- Conduct Safety and Health Training. Train workers in a language that they understand to eliminate the potential for any communication barriers (learn more in 5 Steps to Creating a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Workforce). It is the responsibility both the staffing agency and the host employer to train temporary workers. Staffing agencies should provide information and training regarding general health and safety best practices, while host agencies should provide specific information and training tailored to the particular hazards in their workplaces. Additionally, both parties should provide safety and health orientations for all temporary workers (learn the 9 Topics Every Employee Orientation Should Cover).
- Implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Both staffing agencies and host employers should implement injury and illness prevention programs that seek to reduce the severity, as well as rates of workplace injuries and illnesses. Assessments should be carried out regularly to measure the effectiveness of these programs in terms of consistency, timeliness, quality, and adequacy.
- Investigate all Incidents, Injuries, and Illnesses. Both staffing agencies and host employers should conduct thorough investigations of injuries and illnesses, including near-misses. This will help to determine the root causes so that immediate corrective actions can be undertaken.
- Maintain Contact with Workers. The staffing agency should establish ways to maintain contact with temporary workers—for example, via phone calls or site visits. It should also address any health and safety concerns highlighted by workers.
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