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OSHA makes efforts to better protect temp workers

In late April, we published a blog post about how work hazards disproportionately harm vulnerable populations. We noted in that post that temporary workers are among those vulnerable populations and suffer higher than average rates of work-related injuries and illnesses as a result. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken note of this fact and has acted in order to better protect these workers in particular.

Temporary workers include those that work on a seasonal, freelance, contractual or contingent basis. They are often technically self-employed or employed by temporary worker agencies. A great many of these employees tend to be minimally educated, have low English proficiency and are generally less aware of their rights than the population characterized as fulltime employees. As a result of this combination of factors, the employers who provide the actual tasks completed by these workers often do not hold themselves accountable for keeping them safe in the ways they would for fulltime employees.

OSHA recently released both a memorandum and announced an initiative aimed at better ensuring the occupational health and safety of these workers. Essentially, OSHA has stated that employers may not utilize any shortcuts when it comes to keeping these workers safe. Regardless of whether or not workers are employed fulltime or on a temporary basis, they are entitled to a safe work environment.

This seems like an obvious statement that should not have to be made explicitly. However, too many employers have taken advantage of what they perceive as loopholes in the accountability structure concerning temporary worker safety. Now that OSHA has spoken clearly, hopefully these workers will truly experience safer work environments after all.

Source: Human Resource Executive Online, “OSHA Steps Up Temp Safety Efforts,” Tom Starner, May 28, 2013

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