Matt Deffebach in Houston Chronicle: Safety Liability


Over the years, whenever federal regulators charged a company with health and safety violations, the responsibility would fall on the host company even if temporary workers were on site.

The general thinking was that it was the host company and not the staffing firm that had control over the machines, the work site and how the work gets done, said Matthew Deffebach, an employment lawyer at Haynes Boone.

But that responsibility has shifted over the past couple of years as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an enforcement initiative aimed squarely at the staffing industry. In recent months, OSHA has levied fines and citations against personnel agencies for shirking what the agency believes is their joint-employer responsibility to keep all employees safe at work.

"That's a big change," said Deffebach, who hosted a recent lunchtime seminar on changes in health and safety regulations.

Among his clients who are staffing firms, he said, "It's definitely a concern."

Staffing firms will have to do more than show a 15-minute video on safety rules, he said.

It's hard to know exactly where one company's responsibilities end and another's begins, Deffebach said. For example, who is supposed to give the safety speech at the "tailgate meeting" that starts each day? he asked. The host employer? The staffing firm? Or both?

Excerpted from The Houston Chronicle. To read the full article, click here (subscription required).

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