Temporary Workers: Staffing Agencies Jointly Liable for OSHA Violations

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Concerns employers may use temporary workers as a means to fill hazardous jobs and skirt compliance with OSHA regulations, has led to OSHA holding staffing agencies jointly responsible for safety violations when temporary workers are exposed to unsafe conditions. While the extent of staffing agency responsibilities are fact-specific—based upon the applicable regulations for the particular job and activity—what OSHA has made clear is that staffing agencies and employers are jointly responsible for ensuring OSHA compliance and that temporary workers have a safe place to work.

OSHA has set up a section of their website specifically dealing with the protection of temporary workers. OSHA warns that all temporary staffing agencies and host employers should lay out each of their responsibilities clearly in their contacts with one another to ensure OSHA compliance. While staffing agencies do not have to become experts in job site safety or worksite hazards, OSHA specifically states the agencies do need to take active steps to ensure they are placing workers at safe locations. The site suggests the agencies investigate what conditions are like at the worksites, determine what hazards might be encountered at those locations, and how they can help train and protect their temporary placements from those hazards.

In two specifics examples, OSHA recently levied some hefty fines against host employers and staffing agencies in both Texas and Alabama. In Alabama, auto part manufacturer Pyongsan America Inc. was found to have exposed permanent and temporary workers to a variety of risks that were uncovered as part of OSHA’s Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry. Not only was Pyongsan cited, but so was its staffing firm, Surge Staffing LLC. Both companies face $106,020 in penalties for 11 safety violations. More particularly, Surge was issued two serious citations for failing to train employees and for failing to protect them from crushing and amputation hazards.

In Texas, Exterran Energy Solutions LP, an oil and gas equipment manufacturer, and its staffing company, South Texas Specialty Welders LLC, were cited for a combined 34 safety violations with a proposed penalty of $120,800. The violations were uncovered following a complaint-initiated inspection. Exterran was cited for 23 serious violations and staffing agency South Texas Specialty Welders was cited for failing to ensure protective railing were installed on loading docks, failing to ensure employees received proper fire training and using welders in confined spaced, and proper hazard communication training. South Texas Specialty Welders LLC faces $9,800 in penalties.

The lesson from these recent examples is that staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for ensuring temporary workers receive proper OSHA training and that employers are fulfilling of their responsibilities to provide a safe workplace. OSHA has provided a number of recommended practices regarding placing and protecting temporary workers as well as a pamphlet regarding temporary workers rights.

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