The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released two new bulletins in its temporary worker initiative aimed at improving safety for temporary workers. The bulletins are the latest in a campaign that began in 2013, and they discuss the responsibilities of staffing firms and client companies when placing workers in worksites with airborne contaminants or high noise levels.
In the first of the new bulletins, OSHA focuses on temporary workers placed at sites where they may be exposed to airborne contaminants. It contains a hypothetical scenario where a staffing buyer operating a welding site refuses to provide a welder with a respirator or discuss evaluation of respiratory hazards with the staffing firm. In this case, both the buyer and staffing firm could face OSHA citations. If the buyer does not provide the protection, the staffing firm would have to provide the protection itself or withdraw workers from the site.
“Both the host employer and staffing agency are jointly responsible to ensure workers wear appropriate respirators when required,” according to the bulletin. “While both the host and the staffing agency are responsible to ensure that the employee is properly protected in accordance with the standard, the employers may decide that a division of the responsibility may be appropriate.”
Neither the client firm nor staffing firm can require temporary workers to pay for their own respiratory protection.
The second bulletin covers staffing firm and client company responsibilities when workers are assigned to sites where they may be exposed to high levels of noise that can cause permanent hearing loss. Here, again, workers may not be required to pay for their own hearing-protection devices. And employees must be paid for time spent receiving hearing tests in cases where an audiometric testing program is required.
It cites a hypothetical scenario where workers are assigned to a metal equipment manufacturers’ worksite, where noise levels exceed 85 dBA (a weighted measure of decibels). In this scenario, a staffing firm asks workers whether the client company trained them in the use of hearing protection, and the workers said “no.” The staffing firm then discusses this with the client company, which declines to provide training. Under such a scenario, the client company could be cited by OSHA.
Law firm Seyfarth Shaw in a post on Lexology noted it has been almost two years since the last bulletin.
“It is OSHA’s view that staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for temporary workers’ safety and health,” according to the post. “However, as the two newly published bulletin’s make clear, fulfilling the shared responsibility for temporary worker safety requires thoughtful coordination between staffing agencies and host employers.”