OSHA Emphasizes Employer Safety Obligations to Temporary Employees

Last month, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a policy memorandum intended to set forth safety compliance obligations for temporary employment agencies and the companies using their labor services.  As with most federal agencies, OSHA has long considered both the temp agency and the client using its services to be joint employers.  During safety compliance audits, OSHA investigators often open inspections against both parties, and issue citations based on their respective control over safety conditions at the worksite.
The memorandum instructs safety compliance officers to review written contracts with temporary agencies to help determine which party is responsible for training, personal protective equipment and other safety practices.  In most situations, the host employer will have primary responsibility for safety compliance, because it creates and has control over worksite hazards.  However, OSHA notes that the temp agency can be held responsible for sending employees to jobs where they do not have adequate training or knowledge to safely work in that environment.
Temp agencies and their clients should allocate safety compliance responsibilities in their written agreements.  In addition, these parties should discuss safety issues and specific employee training and experience requirements before temporary employees are assigned to any workplace where significant safety hazards are present.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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