Monthly Archives: May 2017

Temporary Workers and Safety: A Partnership That Requires Some Understanding

In mid-April, Nissen Staffing Continuum had the honor of speaking at the Waukesha Area Safety Council’s monthly meeting.  The topic was the OSHA Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) and members learned about this 2013 OSHA directive that focuses on “the compliance of Health and Safety requirements when temporary workers are employed under the joint (or “dual”) employment of a staffing agency and a host employer. “  Under this regulation, OSHA outlines the roles and responsibilities of both staffing companies and organizations that use temporary workers (“host employers.”)

OSHA had four main concerns that led to the program development:

  • Employers were using temporary workers as a way to avoid meeting their compliance obligations under the OSHA and other worker protections laws.
  • Temporary workers get placed in a wide variety of jobs, including the most hazardous jobs.
  • Temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace safety, health hazards and retaliation than workers in traditional employment relationships.
  • Temporary workers are often not given adequate health and safety training or explanations of their duties by either the temporary staffing agency OR the host employer.

Why did we agree to talk about this?  First and foremost—because it’s the LAW, and second, it’s often misunderstood. In February of 2017, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development announced a statewide unemployment rate of 3.7%, the lowest since January of 2000.  With unemployment under 4%, some can argue that those not working are those without adequate basic skills, common sense, and many are what we call “unemployable.”  In addition, keeping employees SAFE is important to the overall health, safety and retention of your current workforce.  Having programs in place to protect your workers and your temporary workers also helps protect YOUR business from costly worker’s compensation costs, decrease your cost of litigation resulting in unsafe work practices and also protects you from workers compensation predators.

The regulation can be broken down into three main parts:  Host Employer Obligations, Staffing Company Obligations and Joint Obligations.

HOST EMPLOYER OBLIGATIONS

As a host employer, you have a number of obligations.

  • Maintain a safe work environment: Continually evaluate your workplace and understand and communicate hazards
  • Select a responsible staffing partner: Remember that Cheapest does not equal best.  Understand who you are hiring to help you find workers.  Are they doing their best to screen candidates that are capable of being safe at work?  Are they proactive with safety?
  • Understand that you are in charge of training: You are in charge of all site-specific workplace training, including (but not limited to): Hazard Communications/GHS, Lockout-Tagout, Machine Guard, Forklift or other PIT training, Ergonomics, Safe Material Handling, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Emergency Evacuation, Safety monitoring (hearing, for example) and any other site-specific safety protocols.
  • Keep OSHA records: Temporary employees that experience an injury or illness on your worksite must be included on your OSHA 300 Logs, as your company, in most cases, is the supervising employer and the injury/illness took place at your worksite.
  • Make sure that you cover safety in your contract with your staffing company AND that it includes the host employer’s responsibility for recordkeeping (not only OSHA, but also training, safety warnings/violations, internal accident reports, etc.)

STAFFING COMPANY OBLIGATIONS

Just as you have obligations, so does your staffing company. Being aware of these obligations will help you identify a good partner.  Your staffing company should research your company’s safety record and review your safety and illness prevention program.  They should request to visit your site and do a documented walk-through.  They should understand the job and ask you for a detailed job description that will include essential skills and physical requirements.

The staffing company should also be pre-qualifying employees. At a minimum, they should have a formal application on file, should be doing reference checks and have a clear drug test policy.  Their recruiters should be trained in interviewing techniques that help them evaluate how an employee would handle an unsafe situation.  They should be talking to potential employees about general safety concepts.  Remember, the staffing company needs to work with a cooperative host employer to keep their employees safe.  The host employer needs to remember that choosing a staffing company that does these things will only decrease their own exposure to worker’s comp liabilities and litigation.

JOINT OBLIGATIONS

While each employer (the Staffing Company and the Host Employer) has responsibilities, there are also some responsibilities that overlap.  Be sure to outline in a Memo of Understanding, Safety agreement or contract each employers’ role in ensuring employee safety.  Make sure this agreement is in writing and signed so there is no confusion. Within this agreement, include terms that determine who is responsible for each part of the law, define the scope work and be sure that a workplace hazard assessment has been completed.  In the end, should an OSHA violation occur, BOTH the host employer and the staffing company will be held liable, so it’s best to spell out responsibilities ahead of time.

Safety is a PARTNERSHIP and because it’s a partnership, both host employers AND staffing companies are responsible to ensure the safety of their employees, regardless of whose name is on the employee’s paycheck.  And because they are both RESPONSIBLE, they are both liable.  The TWI protects temporary employees by outlining responsibilities for both employers. You can learn more about this important law by visiting the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/temp_workers/

An award-winning staffing expert in Southeastern Wisconsin in manufacturing, clerical, professional and light industrial placements, Nissen Staffing Continuum is proud of our commitment to safety.  We maintain an active role as the Outreach Coordinators on the Waukesha Area Safety Council and welcome the opportunity to learn from the great speakers that present to the organization.  As your strategic partner, we’ll help you take your staffing initiatives to the next level, whether it’s onsite programs, direct hire placement, temp-to-hire programs or temporary staffing. Our recruiters are supported by a full-time sourcing department dedicated to finding great employees for our clients. For more information about how we can help you find great employees, contact us today and allow us to help you with your HR needs so you can focus on your company’s success!

Special Thanks to Helene Browning, Senior Risk Engineering Consultant at Zurich Insurance for her assistance with our research and helping us establish our safety program protocols.