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Temporary workers and OSHA

Temporary workers and workplace safetyby John Hall

Who is responsible for compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) when temporary or leased employees are involved? Is it the agency supplying the employees or the client employer for whom they are working? Through interpretive letters and compliance directives to staff, OHSA asserts that it can be a shared responsibility.

Because of its ongoing relationship with the employee, the temporary staffing service could likely carry some record- keeping and training obligations. However, the primary responsibility resides with the client employer, which creates and controls conditions at the workplace. For example, it’s the employer that ensures machinery is guarded and necessary personal protective equipment is used. However, the temp agency would maintain all medical monitoring and exposure records created by a client employer on agency employees.

The issue of “client employer” versus “temporary service agency” responsibility is focused mostly on the area of employee training. There’s no waiver on the various training requirements simply because a temporary employee’s assignment is of a short duration. For instance, training or safety instruction must be given to construction employees, even for very short-term jobs. OSHA often finds that permanent employees are properly trained as required by a particular standard but their temporary counterparts aren’t. That results in citations and significant penalties.

The need to define responsibility is frequently raised with the hazard communication standard and its training requirements. In those cases, the temporary service agency would be expected to provide some generic training. The client employer would then have to provide the specifics about the hazardous chemicals used at the work site, along with training on the implementation of its hazard communication program at the site. Similarly, the bloodborne pathogens standard would require generic training by the leasing agency with site-specific training and implementation by the client employer. Under that standard, the temporary service would also need to ensure that employees receive required vaccinations and follow-up evaluations after exposure incidents.

OSHA points out in interpretive documents that a client employer may wish to specify the qualifications it will require of personnel supplied to it. That could include training on specific chemicals, use of personal protective equipment, and the like. It is also advisable that contracts between the parties clearly define their respective responsibilities so that all OSHA requirements are met.

A recordable injury or illness of a temporary worker should be entered on the client employer’s OSHA 300 log if the employer performs day-to- day supervision of the worker. The temporary labor service should not record the case. OSHA regulation 1904.31 suggests that client employers and labor supply services coordinate their record-keeping efforts to ensure that a case is recorded only once.

John E. Hall is the OSHA consultant for Lehr Middlebrooks & Vreeland, P.C. Before working with the firm, he was the OSHA area director and worked for 29 years with the agency in training and compliance programs, investigations, enforcement actions, and setting OSHA priorities. He can be reached at (205) 226-7129.