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Who Cares About Temps? EHS Managers, That’s Who.

Safety for temp employees

EHS managers agree that most of their daily efforts focus on administering the safety policies put in practice by full-time employees.

Contractors, those vendors who serve their organizations for a particular specialization, are also a group that needs attention, particularly since they come and go from the company’s facilities, perhaps at irregular intervals and may not be aware of physical or regulatory changes made in their absence.

But there is another classification of worker that may not receive the attention needed to ensure safe work practices and compliance. That is the ‘temp’. Temporary workers are those folks hired for short duration and reporting directly to the company management (as opposed to contractors, who we see as those who answer to their own management, who are in turn, hired by the client company).

A recent Business Insurance article reminds us that OSHA established the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) in 2013 to, as the article puts it, “address the risk of work-related injury and illness and protect temporary workers from workplace safety hazards.” The TWI was rumored to be in jeopardy at the start of 2017 but remains intact as of this date.

In short, this initiative makes it clear that host employers (those hiring temps, whether through a staffing service or directly) are as responsible for creating and maintaining a safe workplace for temp employees as they are for their full-time staff. The TWI includes provisions for injury and illness record-keeping, providing appropriate safety equipment, and hazard communication and training. And, while the host employer shares this responsibility with the staffing service contractor, if there is one, the burden really falls more heavily to the host to keep the temporary worker as safe from harm as possible. While staffing companies may seek only customers with safe work environments, it’s not likely that they would regularly inquire about safety practices or monitor work conditions.

The TWI recommends a contract between the staffing service and the host employer that assures a safe workplace for those temps placed there by the staffer. This clearly protects the temporary services provider and puts more duty onto the part of the host company. These responsibilities can be extended to not only making sure the work environment is safe (as it presumably would be for full-time employees), but to training temps to work safely and respond properly to any sort of job-related incident that might pose harm to themselves or others.

The TWI allows for training responsibilities to be shared between the host company and staffing service management. So, if a company is regularly bringing in temps from the same agency, they can expect the staffer to prepare temps to work safely when they arrive to serve the host company. As the BI article points out, “Both employers should be clear about which aspects of training they will take on and inform the other when training has been completed.” But, logically, training content and standards need to be established by the host company. It’s their facility that has its own specific hazards. And it is their full-time employees who also deserve a safe workplace, one which could be hampered by a poorly-trained temp.

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