The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is stepping up its efforts to monitor the safety and training of workers from temporary staffing agencies.
An April 29 memorandum to OSHA regional administrators outlines new checks inspectors should make when they inspect worksites where temporary workers are employed. The checks include determining whether the workers are exposed to conditions in violation of OSHA rules and whether the workers received safety and health training “in a language and vocabulary they understand.”
The memo was issued by Richard Fairfax, the outgoing deputy assistant secretary of labor, and Thomas Galassi, who oversees the agency's Directorate of Enforcement Programs.
“Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others,” the agency officials wrote.
The memorandum defines temporary workers as “those who are paid by a temporary help agency, whether or not their job is temporary.”
The memo instructs compliance officers that if there are temporary workers, the inspector should “document” the name and location of the workers' staffing agencies.
Inspectors should also record “the extent to which the temporary workers are being supervised on a day-to-day basis either by the host employer or the staffing agency.”
During an April 29 Workers' Memorial Day remembrance, OSHA chief David Michaels said the agency is mounting the “concerted initiative to use enforcement, outreach, and training to ensure that temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards.”
The initiative was prompted by cases of workers hired on a temporary basis or by outside contractors being injured during their first days on the job, Michaels said. He cited deaths in the past year at a South Carolina paper mill, a New York construction site, and a Florida bottling plant.
So far, only the Florida case has resulted in citations.
“Our investigation found [laborer Lawrence Daquan Davis] and his coworkers were never trained in the simple lockout/tagout procedures that would have saved his life,” Michaels said.
As a result of the investigation, Bacardi Bottling Corp., the Jacksonville-based rum maker, was cited for two willful, nine serious, and one other-than-serious violation. The company was also placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program (43 OSHR 146, 2/14/13).
OSHA originally proposed a $192,000 penalty. Negotiations leading to an informal settlement reduced the fine to $110,000, OSHA's inspection database shows.
Fatality information for 2011, released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on April 25, found that 11.5 percent of the year's 4,693 deaths were suffered by workers who were employed by one company or agency but working at another location at the behest of the establishment. That category, which is broader than the OSHA memo's definition of a temporary worker, includes security guards assigned to protect a bar, electricians contracted to work in a building, and warehouse workers from a temporary staffing agency. (See related story.)
By Bruce Rolfsen
The memorandum is available at http://tinyurl.com/d55l9zo.