Protect Off-site Temporary Employees
All businesses should protect the safety and health of their employees, but temporary staffing agencies face unique risks and exposures due to the fluidity of their workforce’s location and their lack of supervisory control at client facilities. Unfortunately, when employees are sent to host employers, your agency also assumes a large portion of the risk. Staffing agencies can be held liable for the safety of its off-site employees, including any injuries that occur at a client’s worksite.
As a result, you may think that high workers’ compensation premiums and costly lawsuits are unavoidable, but that isn’t the case. Although your agency can’t completely protect temporary employees from occupational accidents and injuries once they are placed at an off-site location, by taking a proactive approach to managing risks you can reduce your exposures to a manageable level.
Review Potential Clients
In the same way that you wouldn’t hire a new employee without first checking his or her credentials, you shouldn’t bring on a new client without first exercising due diligence to ensure they are a proper and safe fit for your agency and employees. Before agreeing to work with a potential client, ask them for the following information:
- An overview of their business operations
- Specific job descriptions, including the following:
- Examples of job tasks
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements
- Safety requirements
- Potential hazards
- Existing safety manuals
- OSHA reports
Additionally, you and your potential client should jointly review task assignments, job hazard analyses and all worksites to which temporary employees might be sent. This will help to identify and eliminate potential safety and health hazards, and identify the training and protective measures necessary to keep each employee safe. Consider utilizing a third-party safety and health consultant during these reviews; this will provide your agency with expert advice to help discover and eliminate hazards before an injury occurs.
Define Each Employer’s Responsibilities
When you send employees to a job, your agency and the host employer are both responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment. Responsibilities will naturally vary depending on unique workplace conditions, and should be described in detail in the contract between your agency and the host employer.
Though some safety and health responsibilities will overlap, either your agency or the host employer may be better suited to ensure various aspects of the temporary employees’ health and safety. Work alongside host employers to clearly define each organization’s obligations and record them in the contract. Some provisions to consider include the following:
- General safety and health training
- Required PPE
- Information on job- and site-specific hazards
Staffing agencies usually provide temporary employees with general safety and health training that is applicable to various occupational settings, but you should then ensure that host employers provide specific training tailored for their workplaces.
All of the tasks that temporary employees are expected to perform should be stated in the agency-host contract, and be communicated to employees before they begin work at the host employer’s worksite. Clearly defining the scope of the temporary employees’ tasks discourages host employers from asking employees to perform tasks that they are not qualified or trained for, or that carry a higher risk of injury.
All of the responsibilities contained in the contract should be reviewed regularly to ensure that both you and the host employer are in compliance with safety regulations, and have given temporary employees the training, equipment and information they need to stay safe.
Communication is vital to employee safety. Host employers should know to immediately contact you if a temporary employee is injured. Keep in mind that if you provide the day-to-day supervision of employees, you are required to record their work-related injuries in an OSHA Injury and Illness Log. If employees are at a client’s worksite, the host employer is responsible for record-keeping. Still, you should train all employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly, regardless of the location.
Even if day-to-day supervision is your client’s responsibility, you should maintain continuing communication with your off-site employees to ensure that small issues are addressed before they can escalate. An agency representative can touch base with employees throughout a temporary assignment—such as when he or she is on the site to meet with a host employer—or by phone or email. It’s your obligation to reach out and verify with employees that your clients have fulfilled their responsibilities to create a safe workplace.
Your agency should also have a written procedure for employees to report any hazards and instances when their tasks are altered from those previously agreed upon with the client. Inform employees of this procedure so they can communicate hazards or changes in expected job tasks, and follow up on all safety, health and host employer concerns.
Protect Your Agency and Your Employees
It’s always important to keep your employees safe, especially when you can’t supervise their day-to-day tasks or exposure to hazards. Contact your Southwest Risk Management representative, who can provide you with industry-specific safety and compliance resources to protect your agency and its employees at 1-866-924-7976 (SWRM).