OSHA Issues New Temporary Worker Initiative Guidance Bulletins

04/20/2015

OSHA launched the Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) in 2013 with the purpose of increasing its focus on temporary workers in order to highlight employers’ responsibilities to ensure these workers are protected from workplace hazards. A temporary worker is defined by OSHA as one hired and paid by a staffing agency and supplied to a host employer to perform work on a temporary basis. In this situation, OSHA considers the staffing agency and host employer to be “joint employers.” 

Three guidance bulletins have been issued since the inception of the TWI. The first focused on injury and illness recordkeeping requirements. Two additional bulletins were issued recently of which employers should be aware. 

  • TWI Bulletin Number 2 focuses on personal protective equipment (PPE) and attempts to address how host employers and staffing agencies can identify who is responsible for various PPE requirements. According to the bulletin, both host employers and staffing agencies are responsible for conducting hazard assessments, providing adequate PPE, and providing PPE training to the temporary workers, with the host employer having the primary responsibility in most circumstances. When the host employer has the primary responsibility of providing PPE and associated training, the staffing agency must take reasonable steps to ensure that the host employer conducts the appropriate hazard assessment and provides the adequate PPE and training. Moreover, neither the host employer nor the staffing agency can require workers to provide or pay for their own PPE, nor can they deduct the cost of the PPE from the workers’ wages.
  • TWI Bulletin Number 3 focuses on protection from retaliation for temporary workers who assert their rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (the OSH Act). Section 11(c) of the OSH Act protects workers who report injuries or raise concerns to their employer, OSHA, or other government agencies about unsafe or unhealthy workplace working conditions. According to OSHA, 

Both the host employer and the staffing agency may be held liable for retaliating against workers who engage in protected activity. For example, if after a worker engages in protected activity, the host employer asks the staffing agency to remove the worker from the host’s worksite, and the staffing agency complies, both employers may be investigated to determine if either one, or both, retaliated against the employee, even if the staffing agency places the worker at another worksite.

As a result, OSHA encourages the host employer and the staffing agency to report to each other protected activity by their temporary workers and to investigate and respond to such activity appropriately. Workers who have been punished or retaliated against in violation of the OSH Act may file a complaint with OSHA against their host employer and/or staffing agency. However, such a complaint must be filed with OSHA within 30 days in order for the worker’s rights to be preserved under section 11(c).

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