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Safety and health inspections involving temporary workers increased 322 percent in fiscal year (FY) 2014, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
In FY 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted 283 inspections of worksites employing temporary workers. There were 67 inspections involving temporary workers in 2013 and only 29 such inspections in 2012.
“The inspection numbers show that OSHA has been aggressively investigating temporary worker staffing agencies for compliance with OSHA requirements and citing those agencies when violations are found,” said Nickole Winnett, an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Jackson Lewis.
OSHA announced its Temporary Worker Initiative in April 2013. The purpose of the program is to increase OSHA’s focus on temporary workers in order to highlight employers’ responsibilities to ensure these workers are protected from workplace hazards.
“OSHA has emphasized that temporary workers are conferred the same protections as other employees covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and that both the temporary worker staffing agency and the host employer share responsibility for ensuring that temporary workers are safe,” said Winnett.
Violations were found on 15 percent of the FY 2014 site visits and a total of 83 citations have been issued to temporary worker staffing agencies. The most common citations were for hazard communication, occupational noise exposure and general requirements for personal protective equipment.
“It is interesting to note that while federal OSHA inspections increased dramatically, inspections by state-plan OSHA [have] remained relatively unchanged over the last three years, with 242 inspections being conducted this year,” Winnett said.
Employers that use staffing agencies need to pay special attention. “OSHA has cited many host employers for alleged violations related to temporary workers [but] found no basis for issuing citations to the temporary staffing agencies involved,” said Valerie Butera, an attorney in the Washington, D.C., office of Epstein Becker Green.
“Make sure that in addition to protecting your own employees, you’re complying with OSHA’s policies and best practices for contractors and temporary employees,” Butera said. “Training is particularly important here. Your temporary employees must be provided with the same degree of safety training you provide your own employees.”
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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