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May 02, 2013
Can OSHA curb temporary worker deaths?

OSHA is taking steps to address a spate of fatalities among temporary workers and others who are new to their jobs. A memo to regional administrators directs field inspectors to assess whether employers that use temporary workers are complying with their duty under the law.

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OSHA inspectors will use a new code in their information database to identify situations in which temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations. They will also assess whether these workers received training in a language they could understand. OSHA is working with the American Staffing Association and employers that use staffing agencies to promote best practices.

The big problem, according to OSHA, is that employers fail to provide safety training to temporary workers. Or, if instruction is given, it does not adequately address a hazard that could contribute to a fatality. One of the most egregious cases was that of a 21-year-old temporary employee who died on his first day on the job at the Bacardi Bottling Corporation plant in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2012.

The young man was crushed to death by a palletizer machine. OSHA issued two willful citations, claiming that Bacardi Bottling failed to train temporary workers on using lockout/tagout procedures to prevent accidental machine start-ups. At the time of the accident, OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels commented, “A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last day on earth.” He emphasized that employers are responsible for ensuring safe working conditions and for training all employees, including temporary workers.

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