Compliance with OSHA’S Job Safety and Health Guidelines | DCR Workforce Blog

Compliance with OSHA’S Job Safety and Health Guidelines

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.


Compliance with OSHA Job Safety and Health Guidelines

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:

  1. A maintenance worker at the Alabama facility of a manufacturer of aluminum automobile parts was standing above the tanks while helping with tank maintenance. In violation of OSHA requirements, the walkway was not equipped with appropriate walkway railings and toe-boards. He slipped and fell backwards into a tank, submerging him in highly corrosive phosphoric and sulfuric acid. The man was saved, but sustained severe burns to his face and internal organs. The company was cited by OSHA for willful safety violations, and penalized $177,500. The employer was also guilty of failure to ensure that machinery does not start up, even as workers are doing maintenance work on them, in spite of an earlier citation and warning.
  2. OSHA has repeatedly cautioned companies against exposing their workers to asbestos hazards, but the employees at two Illinois companies were made to do exactly that during a renovation project. The companies were fined $1,792,000 for willfully exposing at least eight temporary foreign workers to asbestos and threatening to terminate them if they spoke with OSHA inspectors. The companies also failed to make the workers aware of the hazards of working around asbestos, and did not instruct them on appropriate work methods to minimize exposure and contamination. Workers were not provided even basic personal protective equipment like hard hats, eyewear and protective clothing or respirators.
  3. After a request for a safety harness was denied, a worker fell off the roof, landing 12 feet below and suffering severe contusions and fractures in both arms. Instead of reporting the incident within 24 hours, the company waited 3 days to do so. OSHA imposed a fine of $362,500 for failing to provide protection to its workers and for failing to provide training in the use of ladders and fall protection gear. The agency which provided the staffing services was fined $4900 for failing to inspect the job site where its workers were deputed.
  4. Two temporary workers were asked to cut and weld pipes near a storage tank containing explosive substances. When it exploded, one worker died and the other was hospitalized with internal injuries, broken bones and a fractured skull. OSHA charged the involved businesses and the staffing agency with the safety violations which allowed such a mishap.

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.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.