Workers who are employed through staffing agencies are generally referred to as temporary workers, contracted workers, or supplied workers. Regardless of the length of their contract, temporary workers are entitled to the same protections afforded to all other employees. Under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 temporary workers are entitled to the same protections by law and are protected by whistleblower protection rights. All employees, including temporary workers who report or raise concerns about unsafe or unhealthy work conditions are protected from retaliation such as discipline, demotion, reassignment, or loss of job.
According to data made available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, 16.5% (856 cases) involved contracted employees. All workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, but often temporary workers report that they feel as if they do not receive the same number of trainings or precautions as their full-time colleagues.
OSHA launched its Temporary Worker Initiative in 2013 to emphasize the importance of protecting this workplace population. “Workers must be safe, whether they’ve been on the job for one day or for 25 years,” then-Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said in an April 2013 press release.
First and foremost, staffing agencies and host employers are both responsible for maintaining a safe environment for temporary workers. They also both have roles in complying with the health and safety requirements and as such they also share the responsibility for keeping workers safe. It is important that both the host employer and the staffing agency communicate with each other to plan for and provide protections. Ideally, this division of labor should be contained in a written contract. Dual responsibility could look like, for example, having the staffing agency review general safety and health training, while host employers provide tailored and specific training about their particular workplace equipment or hazards.
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Ferguson, A. (2019, November 17). Protecting temp workers. Safety+Health. Retrieved April 7, 2022, from https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/18095-protecting-temp-workers
The United States Department of Labor. Protecting Temporary Workers | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). Retrieved April 7, 2022, from https://www.osha.gov/temporaryworkers/