Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a guide containing best practices for protecting temporary workers. The guide focuses on ways employers can maintain a safe work environment for their temporary workforce, including freelancers, seasonal workers, contract workers, and interns. Altogether, the best practices for protecting temporary workers included in the guide apply to all industries. The guide clarifies that it supplements but does not replace employer obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched the first National Emphasis Program to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.

Background of the Guide

According to the guide, temporary workers may experience a greater risk of work-related injuries than non-temporary workers. Reasons include:

  • being new to the workplace or being unfamiliar with specific job tasks;
  • lack of communication with host employers;
  • insufficient or lack of training; and
  • issues related to dual employment arrangements.

The guide further explains that unsafe working conditions, unclear job assignments, inadequate training, and poor hazard communication put permanent and temporary workers at risk for illness and injury. Furthermore, OSHA can hold employers responsible for not protecting temporary workers. In fact, OSHA has released a series of bulletins under the Temporary Worker Initiative that cover employer compliance with safety and health requirements for temporary workers.

Best Practices for Protecting Temporary Workers

Briefly, the best practices for protecting temporary workers within the guide include tips for evaluation and contracting, training for temporary workers and supervisors, and injury and illness reporting and recordkeeping. The following are some best practices within each of the categories as mentioned earlier:

  1. Evaluating and Contracting
    In detail, this section covers taking inventory of workplace safety and health issues and communicating related employer responsibilities under OSHA in a written contract with the temporary worker. Employers should:

    1. Conduct a joint risk assessment.
    2. Provide safety data about injury rates and safety policies.
    3. Allow worksite walk-throughs.
    4. Communicate pertinent job details on tasks, hazards and controls, training, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
    5. Address employer responsibilities.
  2. Training for Temporary Workers and Supervisors
    Accordingly, training should ensure temporary workers and supervisors understand:

    1. tasks that temporary workers may or may not perform;
    2. how to recognize and control workplace hazards;
    3. required PPE;
    4. First Aid duties; and
    5. details of written safety plans under OSHA, including emergency action plans.
  3. Injury and Illness Reporting and Recordkeeping
    According to the guidance, employers should do the following when reporting temporary worker injuries and illnesses:

    1. communicate procedures for reporting;
    2. inform the temporary worker’s staffing agency in the event of a safety incident;
    3. comply with OSHA injury and illness reporting and recordkeeping requirements; and
    4. complete documentation requirements from the staffing agency.

More Information on Protecting Temporary Workers

In addition to this guide on protecting temporary workers and the Temporary Worker Initiative, the guide provides an additional resource from the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP). The ASSP Z10 Guidance Manual covers ways small businesses may manage safety and health risks. In addition, it provides resources, tools, and checklists to help smaller employers provide a safe and healthful workplace.