Citing recent reports of deaths of temporary employees, many of which have occurred on the first day of the job, OSHA issued a memorandum this week to its Regional Administrators outlining new measures to protect the health and safety of temporary employees. The agency is making a concerted effort using enforcement, outreach and training to assure that temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards.

The April 29, 2013 memorandum instructs compliance officers to investigate temporary worker issues during their inspections and states that 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 memorandum also directs compliance officers to document the name of the temporary workers' staffing agency, the agency's location, and the supervising structure under which the temporary workers are reporting (i.e., 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).

The memorandum also announces the addition of a new OIS code for temporary workers which will enable OSHA to better track temporary worker issues and exposures.

Focus on temporary workers has been increasing in recent years and in one case a state legislature has taken matters in to its own hands. In Massachusetts, House Bill 4304, “An Act Establishing a Temporary Workers Right to Know" was signed in to law last year (taking effect in January of this year). It requires temporary agencies to provide employees with specific start and end times and a detailed job description, including clothing, equipment, training, and license requirements. It must also specify any meal or transportation provisions and related costs to be charged to the employee.

All staffing agencies and employers utilizing temporary workers should take heed. The attention of federal and state agencies and lawmakers is on this issue and employers should be taking steps to ensure that all employees, whether they are full time or temporary, are aware of and properly protected from workplace hazards.