Emerging Issues in Security

Ensuring the Safety of Temporary and Contracted Workers

There are inherent risks contracted and temporary workers bring to the job. Safety organizations are once again encouraging employers to pay attention to building a workplace for these workers that parallels how they treat their permanent employees.

Temporary worker safety

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Contract workers are a susceptible population when it comes to injuries at work. Of the 4,836 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2015, 17% were to contracted workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently placed renewed focus on protecting temporary and contracted workers, encouraging employers to treat temporary worker safety the same as they do with permanent employees.

In April 2013, OSHA established an initiative to reduce the increase in the number of serious accidents resulting in serious injuries and illnesses, with many leading to fatalities of temporary employees at all worksites in the United States. It was the concern of OSHA that from 2008 forward, the number of temporary employees being hired began to increase throughout industry and that it was likely for the trend to continue.

OSHA investigated in greater detail events that occurred to identify common causes and issues of many of the events. It is a particular concern of OSHA that temporary employees are not receiving adequate training, provided personnel protective equipment, or given oversight by the host employer or the supplying agency.

Training is an area of contention when it comes to who is responsible for providing it to contracted and temporary workers. OSHA emphasizes that it is both the host employer and staffing agency’s responsibility to ensure employees are trained properly. Training also requires the host employer to supply safety training specific to the workplace equipment and hazards temporary workers encounter.

The National Safety Council (NSC) also calls for host employers and staffing agencies to coordinate and share responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of temporary and contract workers. State-by state data show temporary workers can have double the risk of suffering severe injuries at work and often are assigned to higher risk jobs, according to the NSC.

Aside from working closely with staffing agencies, the NSC also recommends employers:

  • Establish a policy that states clearly that all workers in all types of employment arrangements have equal rights to a safe and healthy workplace.
  • Develop and implement procedures to ensure that all workers, including temporary and contract workers, are provided a safe and healthy workplace and that there is clarity on supervisory control.
  • Establish mandatory requirements for safety training based on the work environment and risks of job assignments to be delivered by the contract worker employer, staffing agency, and/or host employer.
  • Work with contract worker employers and staffing agencies to identify how to gather and analyze appropriate information about temporary and contract workers to better understand any challenges to ensuring their safety and health and what strategies can be effective in further reducing risk.
  • Develop strategies with contract worker employers to ensure roles and responsibilities associated with accountability for worker safety are clearly understood and effectively executed.
  • Monitor trends in the use of temporary and contract workers in order to address changing needs for maintaining a safe and healthy workplace for all workers.