Stories pertaining to a contingent worker being injured on the job, sometimes fatally, make the news almost daily. These accidents typically are due to lack of — or improper — safety training, education or equipment being provided. They often occur within the first few days of their service engagement and they can lead to hefty fines being levied against the host companies (buyers) by the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration.
Who is responsible for providing that training — the staffing company or the host company? Unfortunately too many times assumptions are made that one or the other is providing the necessary training or if it is provided, it does not cover all necessary facets. When it comes to the safety of your employees and your contingent workers, there can be no assumptions and there can be no room for error as lives are at stake.
Providing the contingent worker with the proper training and safety equipment necessary to perform the job with minimal to no risk is actually the responsibility of both the host company and the staffing company. Sometimes the host companies express concern that providing training may increase the risk of co-employment. It’s important to note while providing safety training may be a small factor toward co-employment status, other factors are much more legally dispositive, such as the day-to-day direction of the worker. The bottom line is the identical or equivalent safety training given to full-time employees should be automatically given to the contingent worker.
Fortunately, there are some basic steps that can be implemented to help ensure your contingent workers are provided with the proper training and safety equipment necessary to perform the job.
Inside access. Allow your staffing provider to see the workplace environment prior to engaging any of its resources. This will enable them to understand what potential hazards may exist and what type of training and protection they will need to provide. If safety equipment is needed, understand who is responsible for providing it along with instructions on how to use it. Be sure to allow the staffing provider to review the safety training that is in place for full-time employees. Meanwhile, you should request and review the staffing provider’s safety training once it is established to ensure nothing has been overlooked. There may be additional training you will have to provide once the worker is on site. This should be viewed as a joint responsibility as part of a known, team-executed onboarding plan.
Document. When engaging a contingent worker, be sure to document the tasks they will be expected to perform and any type of safety training/equipment that will be required. Make sure the staffing provider reviews and discusses this with the potential candidate so there is no misunderstanding. Be sure your internal stakeholders also understand the defined tasks so they do not have the worker perform anything they have not been trained to do. Requiring the staffing provider to prove the candidate has received the proper training is also a good onboarding process step. Once the candidate is engaged, clearly define who will be responsible for communicating with the contingent worker so there are no assumptions someone else has already provided critical information.
Contingencies. Although all these efforts are made in order to avoid an accident, training needs to include knowing what to do should one take place. Both internal stakeholders and the contingent workers need to know where to report an accident as well as how to get medical treatment if necessary. Information regarding an accident should be promptly communicated to the staffing providers so they can follow up and document what happened in their employee’s record.
Other risks. In addition to workplace accidents, your safety program should include training for security, medical, weather and fire emergency procedures, too. A safe work environment is everyone’s responsibility.
Depending on the industry, there are certain standards that must be complied with when it comes to safety, health and reporting of injuries and accidents. Utilizing the OSHA website (www.osha.gov) is great way to understand what legal responsibilities your organization as well as your internal safety and compliance department may have.