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July 28, 2016
OSHA: Actions of auto parts company must come to a screeching halt

OSHA’s inspection of an Auburn, Alabama, automobile parts manufacturer concluded that both permanent and temporary employees faced serious danger. Keep reading to find out what action the agency took, and why you need to be vigilant about protecting temporary workers.

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At the plant, which produces heating, ventilation, and air conditioning hoses for several auto makers, OSHA found workers at risk of amputation, being caught in machinery, and being hit by objects. The inspection was launched early this year as part of the agency’s Regional Emphasis Program on Safety Hazards in the Auto Parts Industry.

OSHA cited the auto parts maker and a local staffing company for 11 violations, with combined penalties of more than $106,000. Four repeat violations were issued to the manufacturer, including one for failing to protect workers from crushing and amputation hazards due to improper machine guarding.

OSHA says it is considering putting the manufacturer in its Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) aimed at “recalcitrant employers that endanger workers by committing willful, repeat, or failure-to-abate violations.” Under SVEP, OSHA may inspect any of the employer’s facilities if it has reasonable grounds to believe there are similar violations.

Joint responsibility

OSHA has been pressing hard for protection of temporary workers. In a statement that described the agency’s approach, OSHA Administrator David Michaels, PhD, explained, “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 employees’ safety and health. It is essential that both employers comply with all relevant OSHA requirements.”

To ensure a clear understanding of each employer’s role, OSHA emphasizes that the temporary staffing agency and the host employer should set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with relevant OSHA standards in their contract.

OSHA has expressed concerns that some employers may use temporary workers as a way to avoid meeting all their compliance obligations, and that temps may be more vulnerable to hazards and retaliation than workers in traditional employment. OSHA asks both host employers and staffing agencies to consider the hazards they are in a positon to prevent and correct. For example, staffing agencies might provide general safety and health training, while host employers provide specific training tailored to the particular equipment or hazards.

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