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OSHA's Birmingham, Alabama Area Office Reaches Out to Temporary Workers

The Region IV Birmingham, Alabama Area Office is using enforcement and outreach activities as part of OSHA's efforts to reach out to temporary workers. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, temporary and contract workers - many of whom work in low-wage jobs and face serious hazards - are entitled to the same safety and health rights as other workers. OSHA requires employers to provide all workers, including temporary workers, with a safe workplace.

The use of temporary workers in general industry and construction has increased significantly in recent years, including in Birmingham and the surrounding cities in northern Alabama. The average temporary worker provides services for a week to a month. During recent inspections in machine shops, the Birmingham Area Office found that temporary workers, including participants in work release programs, were exposed to the following hazards: noise, machine guarding, electrical, and struck-by. During commercial and residential construction activities in the Birmingham area, temporary workers may be exposed to a variety of hazards, including fall hazards.

Ramona Morris, Area Director (AD) of the Birmingham Area Office, identified target areas in Birmingham and other cities in northern Alabama where temporary agencies provide placement to a broad range of employers. The Area Office has worked with temporary agencies such as Labor Finders and Labor Ready to share information on OSHA requirements and worker rights with their multiple locations in northern Alabama. The AD has also held informal conferences with employers who did not understand the importance of providing temporary workers the same levels of protection as permanent workers. For example, one employer did not believe that employees in a work release program should be included in the company's hearing conservation program and did not provide them with hearing protection.

James Cooley, the Compliance Assistance Specialist (CAS) with the Birmingham Area Office, has started a dialogue with local temporary agencies during visits under OSHA Region IV's Ambassador Program. Region IV established the Ambassador Program to reach out to small employers with little or no previous contact with OSHA and that generally do not have a good understanding of their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

These temporary agencies provide workers for various industries, including retail, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and health care. The CAS has worked with these agencies to assess the training needs of the temporary workers because training and education are essential to ensuring a safe and healthful workplace. The Area Office has also mailed outreach packages to temporary agencies. These packages included OSHA publications on forklifts, noise, machine guarding, and fall protection.

For more information, contact Tom Bosley.

As of March 2013.

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