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July 14, 2015
Cal/OSHA issues new temp worker guidance

A recently released fact sheet from Cal/OSHA details requirements and recommended practices for staffing agencies and other primary employers that send workers out to host employer worksites. Keep reading for the essentials.

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Cal/OSHA’s safety and health fact sheet on protecting temporary employees explains that temps work for a “host employer” but are on the payroll of a “primary employer.” The primary employer can be (1) an agency that hires workers and sends them to work for a host employer or (2) a professional employer organization (PEO) that puts a host employer’s employees on the PEO’s payroll as its own.

In dual employer situations, both the primary employer and the host must protect employees from hazards and comply with Cal/OSHA regulations. Dual employer situations are different from multi-employer worksites, where two or more employers have workers present, such as at a construction site. It is possible, says Cal/OSHA, to have a dual-employer situation at a multi-employer site.

Primary employers in California must do the following:

  • Take reasonable steps to evaluate conditions at the host employer’s worksite by doing periodic inspections.
  • Ensure their employees are covered by an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) and other safety programs required by the assigned work, and ensure they are properly trained and provided necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Inform employees that if they are assigned work they believe to be dangerous, they may refuse to do that work and may return to the primary employer for reassignment to other work without penalty.

Cal/OSHA recommends that the primary employer and host employer develop a contract that specifies their respective responsibilities for compliance with Cal/OSHA regulations. However, a contract does not eliminate either employer’s legal obligation to protect temporary employees, and Cal/OSHA can hold both employers liable for hazards to which temporary workers are exposed.

The following are some of the best practices recommended in the fact sheet:

  • Be aware of the hazards at the site. Come to agreement with the host employer as to who will be responsible for providing necessary training for employees.
  • Partner with the host to identify areas of the site that post a risk, ensure controls are in place, and that Cal/OSHA standards are being followed.
  • Stay in touch with employees and monitor their safety and health.
  • Get fully involved in incident investigations.

Federal OSHA has also been focused on ensuring that temporary workers are protected from hazards on the job. Like Cal/OSHA, federal OSHA considers host employers and staffing agencies to be jointly responsible for the safety and health of temporary employees. Compliance officers have been instructed to indicate whether any workers exposed to hazards are temporary workers, and the agency released a joint recommended practices guide on Protecting Temporary Workers with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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