Earlier this year, on May 21st, the American Staffing Association and OSHA joined forced in the Temporary Worker Safety Alliance. The mission was simple; improve safety for temporary workers across the country and across all industries. Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health spearheads the initiative. No doubt about it, initially, there was some trepidation within the staffing community. After all, it is not all that often that OSHA sets its sights on a particular industry or population. So why now?
The ‘Why’ is simple; new workers are far more likely to be injured on the job than workers who have been on the job for a while. Add in that temporary workers are not always trained to the same level as permanent employees and you can see why this would become a starting point for preventing industrial accidents.
Since forming the Alliance, representatives from several different segments of the staffing industry have met regularly with representatives from OSHA. Alliance members have worked collaboratively to develop several bulletins that specifically address issues such Recommended Practices for Protecting Temporary Workers, Recordkeeping Requirements and coming soon, Personal Protection Equipment which is in final draft. I have had the privilege of being part of this historic Alliance along with approximately 35 other representatives and industry leaders. To be clear, this kind of partnership and collaboration is really unprecedented for OSHA, but OSHA recognized that they needed to better understand the staffing industry in order to help best protect the temporary workers.
Our most recent meeting of the minds was held last week at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, DC. The room was full of OSHA representative and Staffing Industry Safety Managers from around the country. The Safety Managers all shared updates on what they are seeing and how they are feeling about OSHA’s Temporary Worker Safety Initiative. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Dr. Michaels and his team attentively listened, clearly trying to learn more about the Staffing Industry and the struggles of how best to protect workers in environments that the Staffing Firms don’t control.
Safety for temporary workers really starts with a partnership between the client (host employer) and the Staffing Firm. In a recent release, Dr. Michaels stated “Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for temp employee’s safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.” This does not mean that companies that use temporary workers will have a target on their back and OSHA will not be targeting companies that use Temporary Workers. Nor will OSHA be going to Staffing Firms to review their client lists. What it does mean is that both the Staffing Firms and Host Company are jointly responsible for keeping workers safe. Suffice to say, that should be the case even without the OSHA initiative. Right?
At DAVIS we see this initiative as a positive. Our workers are our most valuable asset and we take protecting them very seriously. We are proud to say we are part of the Temporary Worker Safety Alliance and that we care about the safety and health of our workers. We actively seek to build safety partnerships with our clients and our clients welcome and respect our commitment to protecting our workers. And why wouldn’t they? After all, workplace injuries have a huge cost. To the client there is the cost of lost production, lost efficiency, increased reporting responsibilities, citation risks etc. To the Staffing firm there is the tangible cost of the injury and the medical care, the cost of the injury’s impact of the WC cost, lost billings, increased time needed to find a replacement, etc. To the injured worker the costs are often painfully obvious in the form of physical harm, lost wages, and more. Injuries are expensive and most injuries can be prevented.
If you are not aware of this initiative, it’s time to educate yourself and you can start by checking out OSHA’s Temporary Worker Safety Initiative. If you are already ‘in the know’ I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are you doing differently because of the initiative? How may DAVIS help?