Temporary Workers Now Have More Federal Protection

There are approximately 2.5 million temporary workers in this country, and amid evidence that they suffer injuries and death at a higher rate than regular employees, federal regulators have formally boosted their protections.
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Our Greenville workers’ compensation attorneys understand that the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration recently distributed a memorandum to its regional administrators, directing all field inspectors to determine if employers who hire temp workers are in fact complying with their legal responsibilities.

In doing this, the agency has established a new code for inspectors to use when they find that temporary workers have been subjected to health and safety violations.

Additionally, the agency has created a new standard to determine whether adequate training was provided to temporary workers in both terms and language that they would easily be able to understand.

Too often, employers might take for granted that temporary workers can read and speak English, when the workers actual English language skills may be lacking. The worker is not apt to inform the employer of this because he or she doesn’t want to miss out on a much-needed job opportunity. The onus then falls on the employer to ensure the worker receives and understands all necessary safety training and protocol.

But employers tend to assume they can cut corners with temporary workers, as if their lives are somehow less valuable than those that are on full-time staff.

In the months prior to this initiative, the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit journalism institute operated in collaboration with WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, underscored the plight of temporary workers, through the story of one who died after an incident in a Chicago factory in late 2011. He was cleaning a chemical tank when when the solution somehow erupted inside the tank, spraying a scalding mixture of water and citric acid all over his body.

A review conducted by OSHA revealed that the worker’s bosses had declined to call for emergency help, despite the fact that the worker was screaming in agony and his skin was peeling off. Nearly two hours had passed before he made it to a nearby hospital.

His protective gear? A t-shirt, rubber boots and latex gloves.

Another incident noted by OSHA in its memo was that of a 21-year-old temporary worker of the Florida-based Bacardi Bottling Corporation, who died last summer on his very first day on the job. He was crushed to death by a palletizer machine. He had been assigned to clean the equipment. Another employee then restarted the machine – a fatal error that cost the temporary worker his life.

Both companies were cited with willful violations.

But they aren’t the only ones to take temporary worker safety for granted.

Last year, researchers analyzing temporary worker injury data looked at some 4,000 work-related amputations in Illinois over the course of a number of years. What they found was that five out of 10 – half – of employers with the highest amputation rates were temporary staffing agencies. It’s worth noting that temporary workers make up a much smaller percentage of the workforce, meaning they are suffering far greater rates of amputations than most workers – undoubtedly due to lax safety standards.

OSHA was compelled to act by a number of reports of temporary workers suffering fatalities on their very first day on the job. In a large number of those situations, companies did not provide adequate safety training, OSHA said, and this played a large part in the temporary workers’ deaths.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Protecting the Safety and Health of Temporary Workers, April 29, 2013, Occupational Safety & Health Adminis tion

More Blog Entries
Temporary Workers May Be At Greater Risk of Workplace Accidents, March 23, 2013, Greenville Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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