Need for Greater Protections for Temporary Workers
December 16, 2017
A recent report, published by three Temple University law students, discusses how employers can easily pay off staffing agencies when it comes to safety training for workers. This action results in poor or nonexistent training for workers. In their report, the students concluded that the ideal solution for this issue is greater regulation for staffing agencies and increasing safety training requirements for employers who use temporary labor.
Companies that hire temporary workers can contract workers’ training out to the staffing agencies that connect them with jobs. In turn, the staffing agencies, who are often in competitive markets, attempt to save money where and how they can. This results in sacrificing comprehensive worker safety training. This issue is compounded by the relatively low fines companies face for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations. For example, a 2010 temporary worker’s fatal injury at a Pennsylvania sugar processing plant resulted in a fine over $25,000, which was then reduced to approximately $18,000 when the plant installed a safety guard. A company in violation can only be fined if it undergoes an OSHA inspection, which is not a common occurrence. In Pennsylvania, there are only 54 OSHA inspectors responsible for overseeing more than five million workers. With odds like this, many companies take their chances by neglecting safety training duties for temporary workers.
There are currently about three million temporary workers employed by staffing agencies around the country. According to a ProPublica survey, temporary workers are 72 percent more likely to be injured on the job and file Workers’ Compensation claims than permanent workers. A temporary worker may be less familiar with the hazards and proper procedures for a job, putting them at a greater risk of making mistakes and being involved in an accident.
Defining Employer Responsibilities for Safety Training
According to the students who conducted the study and published the report, implementing the following can curb temporary worker fatalities:
- Greater transparency in all aspects of the temporary labor industry.
- Accurate legal clarification of joint employer obligations. These are the requirements that employers must meet under state and federal law to protect workers.
- Education about whistleblower laws for employees, which can enable them to recognize and act on safety violations in the workplace.
- Greater levels of accountability at all levels of the supply chain.
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