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January 29, 2020
NIOSH: Higher injury rate for temporary workers

Temporary workers have a higher overall injury rate than permanent workers in the same occupations, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) researchers found in a study of Ohio workers’ compensation claims.

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Findings published in a study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine were consistent with those from earlier studies of Illinois and Washington State workers’ compensation claims. However, the Ohio study covered a longer period of time.

The differences in injury rates for temporary and permanent workers were pronounced in certain industries—agriculture, construction, and extraction, as well as for causes of injuries—contact with objects and equipment and exposure to harmful substances or environments.

Temporary workers who became injured were younger and had less time in their jobs, sometimes less than a year, than permanent workers. Temporary workers had higher injury rates but lower lost-time and medical costs. Injured temporary workers also were more likely to be male.

NIOSH researchers analyzed over 1.3 million workers’ compensation claims in Ohio from 2001–2013, including 45,046 claims from workers employed by temporary service agencies, to compare the injury risk for temporary and permanent workers.

Researchers concluded that:

  • The prevention of injuries among temporary workers must include proper training;
  • Training may be especially important for younger and less experienced temporary workers;
  • Training for temporary workers should occur both before placement at the host worksite and continue after placement; and
  • There should be an increased safety focus when temporary workers are placed in high-risk industries such as agriculture, construction, and manufacturing.

The Institute also suggested workers’ compensation organizations and state workers’ compensation rating bureaus consider ways to incorporate the tracking of temporary agencies into their manual class code rating systems. Insurance companies use class codes to identify categories of work.

Some states have worker right-to-know laws requiring that temporary workers be informed of their rights under the workers’ compensation system. Massachusetts requires that workers be informed about the types of work and tasks involved in the work for which they are hired. NIOSH suggested that other states consider similar statutes.

NIOSH also recommended the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) develop better methods of tracking injuries to temporary workers.

NIOSH and OSHA have developed recommended practices for host employers and staffing agencies to ensure the safety and health of temporary workers. NIOSH and OSHA recommendations include:

  • Staffing agencies should evaluate a host employer’s worksite and ensure the employer meets or exceeds other employers’ standards prior to accepting a new host employer as a client;
  • Staffing agencies also should provide documentation to host employers detailing each temporary worker’s specific training and competencies related to the tasks to be performed;
  • Staffing agencies should train their representative to recognize safety and health hazards at host employers’ worksites;
  • Host employers and staffing agencies should exchange and review each other’s injury and illness prevention programs;
  • Agencies and host employers should define occupational safety and health responsibilities in the scope of work specifications of their contracts; and
  • Host employers should provide temporary workers with safety training that is identical or equivalent to the training it provides its own employees performing the same or similar work.
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