Anyone can trip and fall, but when a construction worker or a window cleaner falls, it could result in serious injuries or even fatality. Based on the recent injuries and fatalities statistics, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is targeting fall prevention as a priority, and instructing employers to provide the right safety equipment and training to workers. OSHA’s fall prevention campaign looks at the different threats faced by workers when using ladders, scaffolding and on climbing rooftops. This is just one aspect of the measures being adopted by OSHA to keep worker safety at the forefront of its activities.
OSHA has also come up with more guidance and specific instructions to make sure that temporary workers receive adequate training to avoid injuries on the job. According to OSHA, the number of temporary workers who get injured or suffer fatalities when working at sites involving hazardous materials or dangerous workplace duties is unacceptably high, when compared to their share of the employment market. OSHA inspections in the future will focus on whether temporary workers are provided safety training and protection in a language and vocabulary they can understand.
OSHA has also spelt out the legal responsibilities of the host employers and staffing agencies for the safety of their temporary workers, both jointly and separately.
Responsibilities of the Staffing Agency:
When deploying a worker at a client’s place, OSHA deems it to be the duty of the staffing agency – as the employer of record – to inquire about working conditions, satisfy itself that the workplace is safe, visit the worksite to identify possible hazards, and determine the best way to train and equip the workers for their protection and safety.
Responsibilities of the Host Employer:
The employer has to make the necessary plans to evaluate the hazards to temporary workers, correct them where possible and prevent possible hazards by complying with OSHA’s safety standards. The employer shall then communicate safety plans to the staffing agency at the beginning of the worker’s engagement and agree upon mutual responsibilities to ensure compliance with the required safety standards. The host employer will also be responsible for recording all occupational illnesses and injuries and for informing the staffing agency when any of its workers sustains an injury on the job.
There cannot be any differential or discriminatory treatment of temporary workers in terms of training, safety and health protections.
There is no doubt that staffing agencies and host employers would be jointly held liable for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers. They are both responsible for providing needed training, ensuring that the worker has all needed safety equipment, explaining job duties to the worker, making workers aware of the hazards specific to the workplace and steps to be taken to avoid accidents or incidents, and maintaining accurate records of all incidents or accidents. Neither can plead ignorance as an excuse and both must focus their energies on determining the kind of hazards that may be encountered and the best way to ensure the protection of every worker.
One thing is clear, everyone must focus on identifying the safety hazards and do everything in their power to prevent any incidents which compromise a worker’s safety or face the consequences of not meeting OSHA’s standards.
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