OSHA and NIOSH have teamed up to produce a guidance document featuring safety and health best practices for employers and temporary staffing agencies which supply labor to them.

OSHA data indicate that temporary workers are at increased risk of injury or illness compared to other workers.  Host employers and their staffing agencies share responsibility for the health and safety of temporary workers. As such, the sixpage document recommends that the written contract between the two parties should clearly define the temporary worker’s tasks and the safety and health responsibilities of each employer. According to the publication, a written agreement is important because “[t]he joint employment structure requires effective communication and a common understanding of the division of responsibilities for safety and health.”

Other recommendations include joint evaluations of the worksite, training temporary agency representatives to identify and eliminate potential safety and health hazards, and providing training and new project orientation to temporary employees.  Staffing agencies are urged to maintain contact with temporary workers to verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.

For purposes of the guidance, “temporary workers” are defined as those supplied to a host employer by a temporary agency, regardless if the job is actually temporary.   The guidance spells out recommended practices, as opposed  to legal mandates.  However, a section on reporting injuries and illnesses references the legally required reporting duty of  the employer providing day-to-day supervision, which in  most instances would be the host employer. "

Whether temporary or permanent, all workers always have a right to a safe and healthy workplace,” OSHA Assistant  Secretary David Michaels said last month in announcing the  initiative at the annual meeting of the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association.  “Staffing agencies and  the host employers are joint employers of temporary workers and both are responsible for providing and maintaining safe  working conditions.  Our new Recommended Practices  publication highlights this joint responsibility."

In an OSHA news release, NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard  added, "Recognizing that temporary workers are often new  to the workplace to which they are sent, we believe these  recommended practices will provide a strong foundation for host employers and staffing agencies to work together to provide a comprehensive program that protects the safety  and health of all workers."

OSHA's Temporary Worker Initiative, launched last year,  includes outreach, training and enforcement to assure that  temporary workers are protected in their workplaces.