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OSHA Launches Initiative to Protect Temporary Workers

By: Mark T. Caloyer
May 2, 2013

On April 29, 2013, citing an increase of fatal workplace incidents involving temporary workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") of the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new initiative to better protect those workers.  Temporary workers are defined as those workers who are paid by temporary agencies and supplied to a host employer.  OSHA found that post-accident inspections often exposed situations where temporary workers were insufficiently trained in language and vocabulary that they could understand and lacked the necessary knowledge of workplace hazards and protective equipment.

OSHA's director of enforcement programs has directed regional administrators to track this "vulnerable population" during inspections and created a new OIS code for temporary workers.  If an inspector determines that any temporary employees are exposed to a violative condition, the inspector must enter the newly created code "TEMPWORKERS" in their information system.

In addition, when encountering temporary workers during the scope of an inspection, inspectors will document the name of the temporary workers' staffing agency, the agency's location, and the supervising structure under which the temporary workers are reporting (i.e., the extent to which the temporary workers are being supervised on a day-to-day basis either by the host employer or the staffing agency).

Workplace injuries to temporary workers often involve accidents that occur on the first day the temporary worker is on the jobsite, as occurred in Bacardi Bottling Corp., 584358 (2/8/2013), cited by OSHA in its press release.  The use of temporary workers may also lead to situations where the host employer loses immunity for civil liability for workplace injuries.  See also Black v. Labor Ready, 995 A.2d 875 (Pa.Super. 2010), in which the Superior Court of Pennsylvania held that a host employer was estopped from claiming immunity as an employer of a temporary worker who lost a hand in a press machine, after denying employer status in the workers compensation pleading.

Employers must take steps to ensure that their training of temporary workers is no less thorough than that provided to their permanent workers.