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February 04, 2014
OSHA forms alliance with Houston staffing agency to protect temporary construction workers

On January 30, OSHA announced a new alliance with staffing firm MEMCO, Inc., aimed at protecting Houston-area temporary workers in the construction industry. The alliance will provide workers with safety training and collaborate with temporary employment agencies and businesses that use temporary workers for outreach efforts.

David Doucet, OSHA’s area director in the Houston North Area Office, commented, “Falls, struck-by, caught-in-between and electrical hazards are commonplace in the construction industry and pose a risk to all workers, whether they’ve been on the job for one day or throughout a project.” According to Doucet, the alliance will provide training on these and other common construction hazards in both English and Spanish.

The alliance is just the latest of several recent OSHA efforts to focus on temporary and contract workers. In April 2013, OSHA issued a memorandum to regional inspectors directing them to assess whether employers who use temporary workers were in full compliance with their responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace. Inspectors were instructed to begin using a new code to denote when temporary workers were exposed to safety and health violations and to assess whether temporary workers were provided with training in a language and vocabulary they could understand.

Are you protecting your temporary workers?

According to OSHA, both temporary staffing agencies and business that use temporary workers have responsibilities to ensure worker safety. OSHA does not precisely specify the duties of each employer, as these will vary depending on the situation. However, in general, the agency emphasizes that ignorance of hazards is not an excuse for putting employees in danger and recommends the following:

  • Each employer should consider the hazards it is in a position to prevent and/or correct. For example, a temporary staffing agency might provide general safety and health training, while a host employer would train workers on the specific conditions at its site and provide appropriate protections.
  • Staffing agencies should coordinate their safety efforts with host employers to agree on responsibility for various elements of safety compliance.
  • Staffing agencies should inquire into the conditions their workers will encounter, determine the best way to protect workers from these hazards in coordination with the host employer, and verify that the host has fulfilled its safety responsibilities.
  • In terms of training and safety and health protections, host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers.

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