When your kids were little, you probably told them to wait for the “Walk” signal at busy intersections before crossing the street. And even then, they should still look both ways. As an adult, it’s the employer’s responsibility to not only to talk to you about your safety, but to set up guidelines, precautions and trainings to ensure that safety is a priority.
Over the years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been tightening the loopholes that allowed sub-contractors, staffing agencies or their clients to game the system and use the definition of “employer” to avoid their safety obligations toward temporary workers. OSHA’s rules have been moving toward more joint employer responsibility on the part of the parent company. In 2013, OSHA decided that workplace hazards and a lack of training and safety procedures to face them were leading to more deaths of temporary workers and decided to ensure safety in the workplace for them.
OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative stipulated that “in some situations, the key attributes of the traditional employer-employee relationship are shared by two or more employers in such a manner that they each bear responsibility for compliance.” This has resulted in multi-employer citations in many cases and poses risks for companies that hire temporary workers.
OSHA has also brought in policy changes that increase applicable penalties for violating the safety and training obligations of employers starting August 1, 2016. In all states regulated by federal OSHA, fines raise in step with inflation, with an expected initial “catch-up” adjustment of approximately 80%. The potential impact on erring businesses could be huge, especially for companies that employ temporary workers. There are large labor law liabilities that can come with ignoring the safety of temporary, leased and borrowed employees.
After August 1, 2016, all citations by OSHA will follow the new penalty structure for all violations that occurred after November 2, 2015. With the new penalties in effect, the maximum fine for a Serious or Other-Than-Serious Posting Violation and Failure to Abate penalties will now be $12,471 per violation, up from $7,000 per violation. Willful or Repeated violations will go from a maximum of $70,000 per violation to $124,709 per violation.
Though OSHA holds that the company that directs a temporary employee’s day-to-day activities is the primary employer, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that the mere authority to control – even if not exercised – defines one as an employer. So employers who have temporary workers on their rolls need to remember that they are their employees in the eyes of OSHA.
Employers can minimize risk and liability for safety violations at the workplace by taking these precautions:
In general, OSHA will follow a definition that describes the staffing agency and host employer to be “joint employers” of the worker as OSHA looks at any employer who is creating (the hazardous condition), exposing (the worker to the hazard), correcting (the hazard is this employer’s failed responsibility) or controlling (the existing safety violations and other health hazards) the workers as their employer.
A great Vendor Management System (VMS) can help you solve some of your safety issues. It can track required trainings to ensure that everyone has taken the mandated trainings. Do you have a VMS in place to track safety and other trainings for your contingent workforce? Smart Track is the solution you need to stay in compliance with safety rules and regulations. Email us at email@example.com for more information.
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