According to a new report by ProPublica, the state may become one of the first in the country to hold company’s legally responsible for safety and wage violations by subcontractors and temp agencies that supply them with a temporary work force.
Our Greensboro workers’ compensation lawyers have grown increasingly concerned about the ballooning temporary workforce. Although these individuals are entitled to work injury compensation through the staffing agency or subcontractor, the fact is they suffer work ailments at a rate 50 percent higher than the average worker. (In some states, the rate has been noted as more than 70 percent higher).
That’s a big part of the reason that OSHA recently released a new educational bulletin on injury recording requirements. The goal is to bolster protection of temporary workers. OSHA says this is the first in a series of guidance documents that it intends to release regarding business compliance on the issue.
In general, companies that hire temporary workers potentially face third-party liability in the event of a serious work injury. However, such lawsuits aren’t the norm, and the trade-off is they don’t have to provide unemployment benefits, health care insurance, sick days or retirement benefits. All too often, the safety of temporary workers is considered secondary to the bottom line.
A ProPublica series published last year on the issue indicated that “struck by” and “caught in” incidents were significantly more common among temporary workers than full-time employees. They were twice as likely to suffer heat exhaustion as regular workers and they were three times as likely to be injured by chemicals. They are especially vulnerable to severe injuries, such as amputations.
Unfortunately, temporary workers fear reporting these injuries because they don’t want to be blacklisted by the employment agencies.
So now comes the measure in California. The bill would make it so that companies that contract for labor liable if one of their subcontractors fails to pay the temporary worker proper wages or provide workers’ compensation insurance or submit unemployment taxes to the state.
The measure was just introduced late last month. It’s likely to face fierce opposition from the business community. However, as workplace safety advocates are quick to point out, unless firms at the top are held accountable for violations that occur on their property on their watch, there is little incentive for them to ensure that working conditions are fair and safe for all workers.
Also with stronger liability laws, these firms would know that if they don’t deal with reputable subcontractors or implement adequate supervision of those workers, they will face a lengthy and expensive legal battle.
The new OSHA bulletin also underscores that manufacturers and general contractors may be the ones required to report temporary worker injuries, particularly when they supervise and have significant day-to-day control over the workers. A more accurate system of reporting may give us a clearer picture of what additional temporary worker protections need to be implemented.
If you have been injured at work in Greensboro, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
California Considers Bill to Protect Temp Workers, March 31, 2014, By Michael Grabell, Pro lica
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