"Host employers need to treat temporary workers as they treat existing employees. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the employee, and are therefore jointly responsible for temp employee's safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements."
David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
Employer Responsibilities to Protect Temporary Workers*
To ensure that there is a clear understanding of each employer's role in protecting employees, OSHA recommends that the temporary staffing agency and the host employer set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract. Including such terms in a contract will ensure that each employer complies with all relevant regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding confusion as to the employer's obligations.
While the extent of responsibility under the law of staffing agencies and host employers is dependent on the specific facts of each case, staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers - including, for example, ensuring that OSHA's training, hazard communication, and recordkeeping requirements are fulfilled.
OSHA could hold both the host and temporary employers responsible for the violative condition(s) - and that can include lack of adequate training regarding workplace hazards. Temporary staffing agencies and host employers share control over the worker, and are therefore jointly responsible for temporary workers' safety and health.
OSHA has concerns that some employers may use temporary workers as a way to avoid meeting all their compliance obligations under the OSH Act and other worker protection laws; that temporary workers get placed in a variety of jobs, including the most hazardous jobs; that temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace safety and health hazards and retaliation than workers in traditional employment relationships; that temporary workers are often not given adequate safety and health training or explanations of their duties by either the temporary staffing agency or the host employer. Therefore, it is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.
Both Host Employers and Staffing Agencies Have Roles
Both host employers and staffing agencies have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and they share responsibility for ensuring worker safety and health.
A key concept is that each employer should consider the hazards it is in a position to prevent and correct, and in a position to comply with OSHA standards. For example: staffing agencies might provide general safety and health training, and host employers provide specific training tailored to the particular workplace equipment/hazards.
- The key is communication between the agency and the host to ensure that the necessary protections are provided.
- Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers' assigned workplaces. They must ensure that they are sending workers to a safe workplace.
- Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
- Staffing agencies need not become experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should determine what conditions exist at their client (host) agencies, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection for the temporary workers.
- The staffing agency has the duty to inquire and verify that the host has fulfilled its responsibilities for a safe workplace.
- And, just as important: Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training and safety and health protections.
How can OSHA help?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. If you think your job is unsafe or you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). It's confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.
OSHA also provides help to employers. OSHA's On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. For more information or for additional compliance assistance, contact OSHA at 1‑800‑321‑OSHA (6742).
- Recommended Practices: Protecting Temporary Workers
- Policy Background on the Temporary Worker Initiative
- Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 1 - Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Requirements
- Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 2 – Personal Protective Equipment
- Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 3 – Whistleblower Protection Rights
- Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 4 - Safety and Health Training
- Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) Bulletin No. 5 - Hazard Communication
- NEW Temporary Worker Initiative Bulletin No. 6 – Bloodborne Pathogens
- NEW Temporary Worker Initiative Bulletin No. 7 - Powered Industrial Truck Training
- Temporary Workers' Rights Pamphlet
October 25, 2016 [Trade News Release] OSHA and the American Staffing Association renew alliance to protect temporary workers
September 12, 2016 [Region 4 News Release] Auto parts manufacturer, staffing agency continue to expose workers to fall, amputation, electrocution hazards at Georgia facility
July 22, 2016 [Region 4 News Release] OSHA: Auto parts manufacturer continues to expose workers to amputation, crushing and other serious machine hazards
- OSHA Letters of Interpretation related to employer responsibilities for temporary worker safety under OSHA:
- Houston Chronicle Op-Ed by Dr. David Michaels on Temporary Workers
- Inside Bay Area Op-Ed by Dr. David Michaels on Temporary Workers
* From OSHA's webinar with the American Staffing Association