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Who Is Responsible for the Safety of Temporary Workers?


Worker Safety with PPEAccording to the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA): staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers’ safety and health.

OSHA has been releasing guidance in conjunction with the Temporary Worker Initiative to assist temporary staffing firms and host employers in determining their specific responsibilities for safety in the workplace.  To assure worker safety and avoid confusion about employer obligations in a joint employer situation, OSHA recommends that temporary staffing agencies and host employers communicate, strategize and outline their respective compliance responsibilities in their contract.

Key concepts:

  • In order to be compliant, OSHA’s training, hazard communication, and recordkeeping requirements must be fulfilled.
  • The extent of responsibility under the law is dependent on the specific facts of each case, but responsibility is jointly held.
  • OSHA could hold both the host and temporary employers responsible for a violation (and a violation can include lack of adequate training regarding workplace hazards).
  • Employers should consider the hazards its in a position to prevent and correct to comply with OSHA standards. As an example, staffing agencies often provide general safety and health training, while host employers are usually in a better position to provide specific training tailored to the particular workplace equipment and hazards.
  • Ignorance of hazards does not protect staffing agencies from liability.  Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assignments and must ensure that they’re sending workers to a safe workplace.  Staffing agencies need not become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at their host agencies, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for temporary workers.  Staffing agencies should inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
  • Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training and safety and health protections.

OSHA has a confidential line that employers or workers may call with questions or concerns: 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).  If you think your job is unsafe, please call because you have a legal right to a safe workplace.  Workers’ Rights, Employer Responsibilities, a complete list of OSHA services, and other resources can be found at OSHA’s Workers’ page.  Small and medium sized businesses may use OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program to receive free and confidential advice on how to protect worker safety.  More info can also be found here.