NIOSH Issues Guidelines for Employers of Temporary Workers

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer January 9, 2023
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​The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a new set of safety and health best practices to assist employers that hire temporary workers.

The agency stated that temporary workers—defined as those paid by a staffing company and assigned to a host employer—are at a higher risk of experiencing a work-related injury than nontemporary workers, according to workers' compensation data.

Factors that may contribute to an elevated risk of work-related injuries among temporary workers include newness to the workplace and the role, insufficient communication between employers and temporary workers, insufficient training, and unexpected changes to job duties while on the job.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) holds host employers responsible for protecting the safety and health of all workers, including temporary workers.

"Since 2013, OSHA has maintained a Temporary Worker Initiative, devoting inspection resources towards temporary workers and staffing agencies," said Benjamin Briggs, a partner in the Atlanta office of Seyfarth and co-chair of the firm's Workplace Safety and Environmental practice group. "OSHA regularly cites multiple companies—including host employers—under this multiemployer worksite doctrine for alleged hazards faced by temporary employers. Now NIOSH, which lacks an enforcement arm, has put forward temporary worker guidance."

NIOSH worked in partnership with the American Society of Safety Professionals, the American Staffing Association and the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries to develop the guidelines.

"Worker safety should be a top priority for every employer," said Brittany Sakata, general counsel at the American Staffing Association. "ASA was excited to work with NIOSH and other top safety organizations to develop a guide that can help host employers understand the best ways to help protect temporary and contract workers on their worksites."

The guidelines are divided into three sections:

Evaluation and contracting. Prior to signing a contract, host employers and staffing firms should evaluate all facets of safety and health related to each organization and the jobs workers are being hired to perform, including conducting a joint risk assessment. The written contract should clearly specify job details, including hazardous tasks and controls, training, and personal protective equipment to be used.

Training. Site- and task-specific safety and health training should be provided for all temporary workers before they start new assignments or start new jobs or tasks on existing assignments. The training should include hazard identification and controls, how to use protective equipment, emergency procedures, and OSHA regulations.

Reporting and record keeping. Host employers are expected to inform the staffing firm immediately if a temporary worker experiences a work-related injury, illness or close call and to report fatalities to OSHA within eight hours and serious injuries and illnesses within 24 hours.

Employers should engage with the staffing partner to conduct joint investigations of injuries, illnesses and close calls in order to determine root causes and coordinate medical treatment and return-to-work procedures. Host employers are also required to record injuries and illnesses of temporary workers on their OSHA 300 Log, complete staffing company documentation of the incident and fulfill records requests made by workers in coordination with the staffing firm.

NIOSH has prepared checklists for employers and an in-depth guide on best practices.

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