OSHA Issues New Statement on Responsibility to Protect Temporary Workers

By Rudman Winchell Attorney Anne-Marie Storey

OSHA recently issued a statement which addresses the responsibility of staffing agencies and host employers in terms of recording injuries and illnesses of temporary workers.

According to the March 13, 2014 release, in most cases, the entity responsible for recording injuries and illnesses of temporary workers is the entity which has day-to-day supervision of the employee.

OSHA defines day-to-day supervision as follows:  “in addition to specifying the output, product or result to be accomplished by the person’s work, the employer supervises the details, means, methods and processes by which the work is to be accomplished.”

However, statement clarifies that the staffing agency also shares responsibility for the health and safety of the worker. The agency has a duty to inquire into the conditions of the workers’ assigned workplaces and must “ensure that they are sending workers to a safe workplace”.  The guidance says that “ignorance of hazards is not an excuse”, and that while the staffing agency does not need to be an expert on specific workplace hazards, “they should determine what conditions exist at their client (host) agencies, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers.”

To that end, the staffing agency “has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.”  OSHA could hold   both the host and temporary employers responsible for any violative conditions, which can include lack of adequate training regarding workplace hazards. 

The statement can be found at www.osha.gov/temp_work.