Safety Training & OSHA Compliance For Temporary Workers – Whose Duty Is It?

Sign at an outdoor job site with safety and hazard warnings and a reminder to employees to check in for safety briefing before entering the site.

Between the host employer and the staffing agency, who is responsible for the health and safety training of temporary workers? Who is responsible for verifying employment eligibility, including compliance with child labor laws? Federal labor laws prohibit people under the age of 18 from working in occupations that the U.S. Labor Department defines as hazardous.

The staffing agency and the host employer jointly employ temporary workers and, therefore, they each share some responsibility for training temporary workers and verifying employment eligibility.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), “temporary workers are entitled to the same protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act) as all other covered workers.” This means they must have the required skills and knowledge to safely perform their work, and all workers must be protected from hazardous occupations.

The question remains, though, where does the staffing agency’s duty end, and the host employer’s begin?

What Is The Staffing Agency’s Role In Training Temporary Employees?

The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.

Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.

Per OSHA, “temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for the temp employee's safety and health.”

The role of the staffing agency is to prepare its workers for temporary jobs with host employers. Staffing agencies should provide generic safety and health training so that their workers have a basic ability to identify hazardous situations and understand their rights if confronted with a hazardous situation. Staffing agencies should also ensure that temporary workers know how to report hazards, injuries, and illnesses to the staffing agency.

Additionally, staffing agencies are responsible for making sure that employees receive site-specific training by the host employer, and they should work collaboratively with the host employer to ensure this happens. If, for any reason, the staffing agency believes its workers have not received adequate site-specific training, it should work with the host employer to correct the situation or it should remove its employees from the worksite immediately.

Alternatively, the staffing agency may decide to conduct a walkthrough, identify potential hazards, and provide its own site-specific training before work begins.

The Host Employer’s Responsibility To Train Temporary Workers:

No one knows the hazards of a specific job site better than the host employer. For this reason, the host employer is responsible for providing site-specific training to temporary workers. Host employers must also ensure that workers know how to identify and report hazards to the host employer.

As with any other covered employee, the host employers must also always protect temporary workers from unsafe working conditions and site-specific hazards.

Have you been cited for an OSHA violation? Citations have consequences far beyond the penalty amount. Call our OSHA defense attorneys at (713) 909-7323  or contact us online to discuss available defenses.

Define Joint Responsibility For Temporary Worker Safety In A Written Contract

Although host employers have the responsibility to provide temporary workers with a safe workplace, staffing agencies have the duty to send workers to a safe workplace. An error by either one could result in consequences for both.

Communication between the agency and the host is critical. Per OSHA guidance, “neither employer may avoid their ultimate responsibilities under the OSH Act by requiring another party to perform them.”

Since both share responsibility for ensuring worker health and safety – and responsibilities often overlap – assign primary responsibilities in a written contract to provide the necessary health and safety protections. The details and responsibility for training should be clearly delegated and included in the contract.

When Should OSHA Safety Training For Temp Workers Take Place?

  • Training must be completed before temporary workers begin work on a project. The staffing agency should provide generic safety and health training when hiring new employees, and the host employer should provide site-specific training when bringing temporary employees onto its project.
  • In some situations, the staffing agency is familiar with the hazards of a particular worksite and may agree, in advance, to provide site-specific training, as well.
  • No matter the arrangement, both host employers and staffing agencies must be on the same page and ensure that temporary workers receive adequate safety training before work begins.
  • Note: training must also be in a language and vocabulary the worker understands. If the worker speaks Spanish, for example, training should be conducted in Spanish, and unskilled workers should not be trained with industry-specific or expert-level vocabulary.
  • Ideally, which training the temporary worker receives, and when she or he receives it, should be documented by the staffing agency and the host employer. This documentation could be critical down the road in the event of an inspection or citation.

Protecting Young Workers

Many temporary workers are also young workers. OSHA can and will hold host employers responsible for protecting all workers – including temporary workers.

Last July, a 16-year-old temporary worker died following a workplace accident at a Mar-Jac Poultry plant in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The employer acknowledged that it had relied on staffing companies to verify that every job applicant was legally qualified to work and did not independently verify workers’ ages.

OSHA cited Mar-Jac Poultry with 14 serious and three other-than-serious violations and proposed $212,646 in penalties. The company is also under investigation for violating child labor laws.

Employer responsibilities for young workers include:

  • Make sure you follow child labor laws. As noted above, federal labor laws prohibit people under the age of 18 from working in occupations that the U.S. Labor Department defines as hazardous.
  • Verify that every temporary worker is legally qualified to work – and confirm that your HR department is aware of this requirement as well. Don’t rely on paperwork from the staffing company.
  • Ensure that equipment operated by young workers is both legal and safe for them to use. Employers should label equipment that young workers are not allowed to operate.
  • Make sure young workers are trained to identify hazards, follow safe work practices, and prevent accidents in their preferred language. They should also know exactly what to do if they get hurt.

These responsibilities are part of an employer’s general duty to provide a safe and healthful work environment and comply with occupational safety and health standards for all workers.

Recordkeeping Requirements For Temporary Employees

OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements can be difficult for staffing agencies and host employers to navigate together. Crucially, both staffing agencies and host employers must train temporary employees on the reporting process for all work-related injuries and illnesses and ensure that the temporary workers are involved in the recordkeeping process. Also, for host employers, it is a good practice to maintain documentation of each worker’s age.

Both the staffing agency and host employer must have a system that allows temporary workers to promptly report incidents. Temporary workers should have no problem reporting incidents to either the staffing agency or host employer, and neither the agency nor employer should have policies discouraging reporting.

Do Temporary Workers Go On The OSHA 300 Log?

According to a 2003 standard interpretation of OSHA’s injury and illness recording and reporting requirements (contained in OSHA Standard 29 CFR Part 1904), host employers should not keep separate records for temporary employees, but temporary employees can appear in a different section of the same OSHA 300 log. Host employers must also use OSHA 300, 300-A, and 301 forms to report injuries and illnesses and uphold “the entire OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping responsibility.”

OSHA recognizes that a temporary worker who is injured on a project may not return to the same project after they have recovered. Host employers must make a good-faith effort to keep accurate records, and host employers and staffing agencies should communicate to satisfy recordkeeping requirements and produce accurate records upon OSHA’s request. The Federal Register clearly states: “the two employers have shared responsibilities and may share information when there is a need to do so.”

OSHA Defense for Citations Involving Temp Workers

If a bad experience with a host employer or staffing agency results in OSHA violations or citations for your business, you should not face the consequences alone.

Hendershot Cowart P.C. offers skilled OSHA defense, and we can help prove your good faith efforts to keep your temporary workers safe and contest inappropriate citations. We can even help you avoid citations by including training responsibilities in your contracts with staffing agencies or host employers.

Collectively, we have been working with business owners, executives, and health and safety managers for more than 100 years, and we have special experience in the construction, concrete, transportation, warehousing, and food production industries.

Trust a firm that gets results – call us at (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today.
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