Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host EmployersPosted on by
Hiring temporary workers can be a way for businesses to meet fluctuating labor demands. But, keeping temporary workers safe on the job presents unique challenges, in part due to their dual employment arrangement in which they are paid by a staffing company and assigned to work for a host employer company. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), host employers and staffing companies are jointly responsible for protecting the safety and health of temporary workers. However, there is often confusion regarding the respective safety and health responsibilities of each employer and a general lack of clarity regarding the best ways to protect and promote the safety and health of temporary workers. To help address this issue, a set of best practices for host employers, Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers, was recently developed.
Research demonstrates that temporary workers experience higher injury rates compared to permanent (non-temporary) workers and offers several reasons for this. [i,ii]
- Temporary workers are often new to the job, which is a known risk factor for occupational injuries and illnesses. [iii]
- Temporary workers also tend to be younger than permanent workers, [iv] and younger workers experience higher rates of injuries on the job compared to older workers. [v]
- In one study, over 40% of temporary workers reported never receiving safety training from either their staffing company or host employer, compared to 25% of permanent workers. [i]
Behind the statistics there are stories of workers who have been injured or even lost their lives on the job, such as a temporary worker at a food manufacturing plant in Massachusetts who was fatally injured while cleaning a piece of equipment (see box for details). Unfortunately, this story is not unique. Many preventable deaths and disabling injuries occur among temporary workers in the U.S. each year. [i,ii,vi]
Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers was developed by NIOSH, the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Services Sector Council, the American Society of Safety Professionals, the American Staffing Association, and the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program within Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries. This new, free resource builds on guidance issued by OSHA and NIOSH in 2014 by delivering an in-depth set of best practices tailored specifically to the needs of host employers. The document can be used by host employers across industries and occupations and provides vital information on:
- Evaluating and addressing workplace safety and health in a written contract
- Training for temporary workers and their worksite supervisors
- Reporting, responding to, and recordkeeping of temporary worker injuries and illnesses
The document also includes checklists that can be printed or completed electronically and scenarios illustrating how the best practices might be implemented. A slide deck that staffing companies can use to educate their host employer clients about the best practices is also available.
It’s important to keep in mind that Protecting Temporary Workers: Best Practices for Host Employers is not meant to replace formal elements of an occupational safety and health program or legal requirements. The best practices included in this document may need to be modified based on the specific facts of each case. Laws vary in states with OSHA-approved state plans, so it is necessary to check state-specific occupational safety and health laws before implementing practices.
Host employers can do their part to optimize the safety, health, and well-being of their temporary workers by integrating these best practices into their safety management systems and exceeding compliance with OSHA laws and regulations. Beyond protecting the safety and health of temporary workers, these best practices may contribute to increased productivity and a competitive advantage for businesses that hire temporary workers.
We would like to hear from you! How does your workplace ensure temporary workers are provided with the same workplace safety and health protections as permanent workers? What additional materials would be useful to help host employers better protect temporary workers?
Lauren Menger-Ogle, PhD is a Co-Coordinator of the NIOSH Services Program and a Co-Chair of the NORA Services Sector Council.
Michael Foley is an Economist with the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program within the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and a Co-Chair of the NORA Services Sector Council.
Diana Ceballos, PhD, MS, CIH is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the Boston University School of Public Health. She was an industrial hygienist at the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program from 2010-2015.
Thomas Cunningham, PhD is a Senior Scientist in the NIOSH Division of Science Integration (DSI).
Rebecca Guerin, PhD, CHES, is Chief of the Social Science and Translation Research Branch (SSTRB), DSI.
For more information
[i] Foley M. Factors underlying observed injury rate differences between temporary workers and permanent peers. Am J Ind Med. 2017;60(10):841‐851.
[ii] Al-Tarawneh IS, Wurzelbacher S, Bertke SJ. Comparative analysis of workers’ compensation claims of injury among temporary and permanent employed workers in Ohio. Am J Ind Med. 2019;1-20.
[iii] Breslin FC, Smith P. Trial by fire: a multivariate examination of the relation between job tenure and work injuries. Occup Environ Med. 2006;63(1):27–32.
[iv] General Accountability Office. Contingent workforce. 2015;GAO-15-168-R.
[v] Guerin RJ, Reichard AA, Derk S, Hendricks KJ, Menger-Ogle LM, Okun AH. Nonfatal occupational injuries to younger workers—United States, 2012-2018. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020;69(35): 1204-1209.