Temporary and Contract Worker Safety
April 21, 2018
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has expressed concern that some employers opt to use temporary and contract workers in order to avoid meeting federal safety and health requirements. Not only that, but the administration also reports that temporary and contract employees are at greater risk for being funneled into hazardous jobs, not being provided with adequate health and safety training, and are more vulnerable to employer retaliation than individuals in traditional employment positions.
According to the American Staffing Association (ASA), there are more than 3 million contract and temporary employees in the United States during the average workweek. Although temporary and contract workers can work in any industry, they are most frequently employed in the industrial sector. Because staffing agencies (which help find employment positions for these workers) are such an integral part of the placement process, they are jointly responsible for worker health and safety along with the current (also known as “host”) employer.
It is important to understand the difference between a contract and temporary employee, although both are equally entitled to safe workplaces. Contract employees are hired for specific positions with a set rate of pay, whereas temporary employees are typically hired to fill in periods of time during staffing losses or busy seasons. Although there are a few technical differences between the two forms of employment, the terms are commonly used interchangeably.
For temporary and contract workers employed in particularly dangerous industries (e.g. construction), OSHA says that staffing agencies are obligated to provide them with general safety training. Once the employee is at his or her specific job, the employer is then federally required to initiate job-specific safety and hazard training.
Both staffing agencies and host employers have several other legal duties when it comes to the health and safety of workers – regardless of whether they are fulltime, part-time, contract or temporary employees. According to OSHA, some of these key responsibilities include:
- Open, clear communication between the host employer and staffing agency is essential;
- Just as the employer must identify and remedy recognizable workplace hazards, the staffing agency must also become knowledgeable on the potential workplace dangers;
- The staffing agency is required to verify the safety of each workplace they consider sending workers to before completing job placements, and:
- Staffing agencies must confirm that the employer has fulfilled its duty to provide a safe, healthy workplace
As reported by OSHA, the most critical thing for employers and staffing agencies to be aware of is that temporary and contract employees must be treated with the same consideration as any other kind of worker. This means that every single employee – regardless of job position, pay rate or what kind of work agreement is in place – has the right to be protected from known hazards. For temporary and contract employees the main difference is that two parties (the host employer and staffing agency) instead of just one are responsible for ensuring that standard safety requirements are met.
Even though many employers treat contract and temporary employees well enough, there are also plenty who don’t. When employers opt for using temporary and/or contract workers to avoid complying with federal safety standards it puts these workers at a higher risk for preventable workplace injuries, illnesses and death. Not only is it illegal when an employer or staffing agency fails to protect the health and safety of workers, but also preventable incidents like these can create permanent disabilities and a financial burden for all the parties involved.
If you’ve been injured in the workplace and are a temporary or contracted employee who has questions about filing for workers’ compensation benefits, please contact a representative at our firm.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Represent Individuals Injured in the Workplace
If you are a contract or temporary employee who has suffered a workplace injury, please contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.