Have you prominently displayed the newly released “Job Safety and Health – It’s The Law!” poster from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at your workplace? If not, then probably it is probably high time you did so. Non-compliance with OSHA’s guidelines can prove very costly for companies, both in the case of permanent employees and contingent workers. As explained in an earlier blog, providing safety at the workplace falls to the staffing buyer’s and staffing agency’s list of responsibilities.
OSHA realized early on that contingent workers were more likely to be victims of workplace injuries and fatalities than permanent employees and instituted strong protections for their safety in 2013. But, the fatal injury statistics of all workers tracked by OSHA, shown in the graph below, make it obvious that there is no positive impact from these efforts and that OSHA has a long way to go before all employers heed its warnings and accept the responsibility of ensuring the safety of their workers, whether temporary or permanent.
Let us look at some horrifying accidents involving temporary workers, where OSHA needed to take punitive action against the staffing suppliers and their clients in recent times, to illustrate the attitude of employers to workplace safety:
Remember that in 2014, 4679 workers left their homes to earn a living but never returned! That would work out to nearly 18 workers per working day (not counting weekends and national holidays). While anyone in an unsafe work environment is at risk, temporary workers are less likely to receive safety instructions and equipment needed for their protection. They are often asked to do high-risk tasks that regular employees are unwilling to take on. In each of the examples above, the company using the services of the temporary workers were negligent, and were heavily fined. The staffing agencies who supplied the workers were also penalized, but less severely. However, as Employer of Record, the staffing agency has a legal and moral obligation to ensure that workers are placed in an OSHA-compliant work environment, and have received the training and equipment needed to do the job with minimum risk. Of course, the agencies fear the loss of a client who does not take kindly to being told that the work environment is unsafe, and the contingent worker fears the loss of the assignment.
Share with us your experience. Have you ever been involved in a situation in which a complaint was filed with OSHA, or should have been? Let us know.
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