Category Archives: Safety

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. 

Worker’s Compensation Rule Changes May Impact Area Employers

On Wednesday, January 11th, 55 members of the Waukesha Area Safety Council gathered for their monthly meeting. The group welcomed Attorney Charles Palmer from the law firm of Michael Best & Frederich, who discussed updates to Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation Laws that were passed by the State legislature earlier this year.  The lunch and learn format lent itself to a succinct presentation and opportunities for questions.  Attorney Palmer reiterated the importance of these laws and their need to balance the interest of both Labor and Management.

Specifically, three major changes to these laws impact Human Resources & Safety Professionals and how they should handle specific worker’s comp situations.  The areas impacted by the changes include:

  • Violations to the Drug and Alcohol Policies
  • Misconduct or Substantial Fault
  • Pre-Existing Conditions

Violations to the Drug and Alcohol Policies

Under the changed laws, if any employee violates an employer’s policy against drug and alcohol use AND the violation causes the employee’s injury, THEN the employee nor the employee’s dependents may receive any compensation under law, including no benefits for temporary or permanent disability.  (This had previously read that they would receive a 15% reduction in benefits).  In order to make the law work effectively, Attorney Palmer suggested that employers need to make sure that their policies are clear, that they can prove the injury was caused by a violation of the policy and that documentation is done correctly.  He also suggested that an employee’s behavior prior to and after the injury should be clearly documented, as well as having adequate documentation that the employee was aware of and had received written documentation of the policy.  Finally, he encouraged that all employers make sure their policies are clear and up to date, including verbiage concerning illegal and legal (over the counter and prescription) drugs.

Misconduct or Substantial Fault

Under the changed laws, any injured employee could be denied temporary disability benefits if they’ve been suspended or terminated due to their own misconduct or substantial fault.  (Previously, a terminated employee would be paid disability while not working until end of healing.)  If an employee is suspended or terminated for safety violations, ignoring employer directives or has a post-accident positive drug test, the employer may deny him/her benefits.  Attorney Palmer encouraged members to be sure that their disciplinary rules and procedures are up to date, and enforced consistently – do not discipline or terminate only the employee who is injured, while not applying the same discipline to those who commit the same violation without being injured.

Pre-Existing Conditions

Under the new rule, an employer may submit evidence that an employee’s permanent disability was only partially caused by an injury sustained at work.  Old laws held an employer responsible for an employee’s full disability, even if they had a pre-existing condition related to the new injury.  So long as the pre-existing injury was aggravated beyond normal progression, the law had held the employer fully responsible.  Under the new law, in order to separate the pre-existing disability from the disability caused by the current job, a doctor must determine the percent of disability assigned to each.  Again, Atty. Palmer encouraged employers to work with their insurers to make sure that documentation is clear, and supplied to the doctor including: prior work history and medical records, specifics of the current injury claim, witness statements regarding the current claim, details of the current job, and other information that will allow the doctor to compare the level of exposure in the current job, to past exposure, and compare the pre-existing medical information to the current medical information.

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!

 DISCLAIMER:  This article is meant to be a brief summary of the major points covered in the meeting presentation and is not meant to provide legal and/or medical advice.  As always, we suggest you consult with your medical or legal professional when dealing with any workplace injury or worker’s compensation issue.  Don’t have legal representation and need to retain an expert?  Atty Charles Palmer (Michael Best & Frederich) can be reached by email at cbpalmer@michaelbest.com.

Interested in joining the Waukesha Area Safety Council and taking advantage of learning from our great speakers, while networking with other HR and Safety Professionals?  Please contact Jean at Jean@nissenstaffing.com for more information!

IMPROVING THE HEALTH OF YOUR STAFF AND YOUR BOTTOM LINE

Would you like to retain great talent, improve employee productivity, boost company morale, and decrease costs associated with absenteeism, workplace injuries and the rising cost of health care?

If you are like the majority of US companies, you answered yes to all of the above. In fact, some of your most important short and long term initiatives center around one or more of these very topics.  What if we were to tell you that ONE simple action could positively impact ALL of these important company goals and objectives?  We can: Implement an Employee Wellness Program.

Everyone knows that our country is in the middle of an epidemic of sorts:  we are sitting more, moving less, eating processed and unhealthy foods, gaining weight, and being diagnosed with chronic illnesses like diabetes, high cholesterol, heart problems and high blood pressure.  Our obesity levels are rising and the ages that we are seeing the long term effects of unhealthy lifestyles are getting younger and younger.  Some employers might say that it’s none of their business.  But, that is where they are wrong.  It absolutely impacts their businesses and therefore it literally IS their business.

Like most things in life, there is a domino effect to bad choices.  An employee sits at a desk all day in a high stress job and rarely moves.  He eats fast food for lunch and sips on high calorie soft drinks.  He feels sluggish by late afternoon and reaches for a stimulant, be it a high calorie coffee drink, sugar or a cigarette.  He leaves work late, rushes home to figure out dinner, and ends up at a drive thru or ordering a pizza.  He doesn’t take time to exercise, falls asleep watching television and drags himself to bed only to start the whole cycle again in the morning.

Sound familiar?

An employee that lives this lifestyle has increased his chance of developing a number of chronic conditions, which increases his likelihood of missing work due to illness.  Some research even shows that unhealthy employees have a higher occurrence rate of workplace injuries due to poor body awareness, worn joints, and an inability to correctly lift, move, bend or balance.  Unhealthy employees often suffer from sleep issues, which impacts their daily productivity. Poor lifestyle choices also contribute to mental health issues, including depression and a person’s sense of well-being.  All of these choices can lead to an increased number of doctor visits, prescription costs, and the like.  In addition, a company full of employees as described can have a significant negative impact on morale.  The cycle is difficult to stop once it starts.

What can an employer do to encourage healthier employees?  There are many options, but some include:

  • Create an environment where people are encouraged to move by integrating things like stand up desks, stability ball chairs, exercise areas or walking paths. Even motivational signage and scheduled “brain breaks” can be helpful.
  • Provide healthy choices in your vending machines and cafeterias. Be sure lunches, etc. that are brought in have available healthy alternatives.  Offer free water.  Do not build incentives around unhealthy foods or habits.
  • Hire someone to manage a Wellness Program that encourages a healthy lifestyle. Or, if you cannot do that immediately, find out if there is someone already on your staff that is knowledgeable in this area and start small.
  • Consider making your workplace smoke free, and offer programs that encourage smoking cessation.
  • Motivate employees by incenting adherence to healthy lifestyle choices by creating fun contests, programs and initiatives that employees can participate in.
  • Offer free or discounted wellness screening, fitness testing, health club memberships or the like.
  • Model healthy behaviors.

While there will be costs associated with implementing a wellness program, the returns on such an investment can be significant and, in many cases, immeasurable.

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 improving the lives of both our clients and associates. 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 with our team of recruiters that are supported by a full-time sourcing department.  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!

KEEPING YOUR EMPLOYEES AND YOUR BOTTOM LINE SAFE

Can you answer YES to the following questions about workplace safety?

  • Does your company pride itself on keeping your workers safe?
  • Are you committed to implementing safe workplace practices, implementing training and decreasing your workers’ compensation costs?
  • Do you make sure that ALL of your staff, including your contingent staff, are part of your safety programs?

If you are like most companies, you easily answered yes to the first two questions, but hesitated before answering the last question.  You may assume that your staffing partner has provided safety training to the individuals that are working in your facility.  If this is your assumption, you are both right and wrong.

OSHA has stepped up its enforcement associated with the 2013 Temporary Worker Initiative to protect temporary employees from workplace hazards.  Penalties for workplace violations have ranged from $700 up to $60,000 depending on the number and severity of violations identified during the on-site inspection. OSHA has emphasized that temporary workers must receive the same protection as other employees covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and should receive the same safety and hazard recognition training that all permanent employees receive.

As your staffing expert in Southeastern Wisconsin, we can assure you we are committed to providing basic safety training to our employees that we send to your business.  We have discussed things like PPE, lifting guidelines and basic workplace safety guidelines.  But every business is different, and your safety-related practices and protocols that are specific to your business cannot possibly be shared in detail by us as your staffing partner.  While our employees are our responsibility, we share the responsibility for a safe workplace with our clients.

The driving force behind this OSHA initiative was the high number of temporary workers that were severely injured or killed on the job. Moving forward, when OSHA inspects a client facility, the inspectors are directed to determine if temporary workers are being utilized and if they are exposed to workplace hazards. Below are a few excerpts related to the initiative for OSHA from Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of the United States Department of Labor.

Here are some things to consider to help keep all of your workers safe:

Consideration 1:  Include Your Contingent Workforce in Your Safety Training

Any time your company reviews safety practices, your contingent workers should be included.  If there is a change in your safety protocol, your contingent workers should be included in the training.  Not only is it important for their OWN safety, it is also important to the people working around them.  Dr Michaels commented that

  1. Staffing agencies and their client companies who host temporary workers share the legal obligation to provide workplaces free of recognized hazards. This includes providing required, documented safety training in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
  2. OSHA inspectors will determine, in every inspection, if every temporary worker on the site has received the safety training and protection required by law for the job. If they haven’t, OSHA will hold their employer accountable.
  3. OSHA expects that documentation is maintained by the EMPLOYER for all safety related issues, including documenting any temporary employees’ workplace injuries on their OSHA 300 log.  It is not the responsibility of the staffing company to record injuries on this log.

Consideration 2: Keep Your Safety Standards the Same for Everyone

According to OSHA, “staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers.”  This means that what applies to your own employees applies to your contingent employees as well.  Dr. Michaels noted that “common temporary staffing violations that are being identified are: failure to conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace, undocumented training that occurs by the staffing agency and host employer, exposure to chemical hazards, unguarded machinery, and/or lockout/tag out violations.”

Consideration 3:  Spell It Out in a Job Description

Be sure to provide your staffing partner with an adequate job description that correctly outlines job duties, including physical requirements.  Too often, employers do not want to share these job descriptions and end up frustrated when an employee is not able to complete the work.  Job descriptions are vital in making sure that an employee is capable of safely doing the job.  In addition, most staffing firms function under strict workers’ compensation guidelines.  Sometimes, they are not able to fill specific orders and complete specific tasks because their insurance simply will not allow it.

Consideration 4:  Be Open to Feedback

If a temporary worker reports a safety concern to you, listen and act on the report just as you would if it were your own employee.  In addition, report the concern and your response to your contact at the staffing company so they can properly document and follow up with their employee.

Workplace safety is everyone’s obligation.  Our goal, as always, is to provide workforce solutions to our clients and opportunities for our employees that are mutually beneficial and, above all, safe and meaningful.  Dr. Michaels states, “Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace.”  We concur.

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. 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!