OSHA’s Full Time Enforcement Policy Regarding Temporary Workers

By Eric J. Conn and Lindsay A. Smith

In April of 2013, OSHA declared that protecting temporary workers would become a top priority, and that has proven true in 2014 with the roll-out of OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative and in 2015 with a heavy dose of enforcement and new guidance for employers.  OSHA maintains that temporary employees are entitled to the same safety protections as other workers, and no one would dispute that, but the question remains, who is responsible – the staffing agency Temp Worker 2.JPGor the host employer – when a temporary worker is exposed to workplace hazards?

Although OSHA has regulated the treatment of temporary workers for many years, its new emphasis on protecting temporary workers has been sparked by several concerns. Most prominent among them is the surge (and expected continued growth) of the temporary workforce, the nature of the work performed by temporary workers, and recent fatalities among temporary workers. For purposes of the Initiative, OSHA defines “temporary worker” to include only one who is working in a host employer/staffing agency employment structure.

OSHA’s stated goals for the Temporary Worker Initiative are to:

  1. Protect temporary workers from workplace hazards;
  2. Ensure staffing agencies and host employers understand their safety and health obligations; and
  3. Allow OSHA to learn information regarding hazards in workplaces utilizing temporary workers.

To achieve these goals, OSHA has been producing compliance assistance materials, such as fact sheets and webpages, conducting outreach to affected stakeholders, and of course, exercising its enforcement hammer. Specifically, OSHA directed its inspectors to Continue reading