Bloomberg BNA

Inspections of temporary worker agencies double in response to OSHA memorandum

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Courtesy of Bloomberg BNA

Since inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were told April 29 to pay more attention to issues involving temporary workers, the number of inspections of temporary staffing agencies has doubled compared with last year, OSHA inspection data show.

In the April 29 memorandum, OSHA compliance officers were instructed to record when and where they find workers from temporary staffing agencies at job sites that are being inspected. The inspectors were told to record the temporary workers' staffing agency, the agency's location, and who is supervising the workers (43 OSHR 411, 5/2/13).

OSHA is also tracking how often inspectors find temporary workers who are exposed to safety and health violations at all worksites.

As of Aug. 12, federal OSHA compliance officers had conducted 24 inspections of temporary staffing agencies (North American Industry Classification System No. 561320) since April 29, compared with 11 inspections for the same period in 2012. None of this year's federal inspections have yet resulted in citations; OSHA has up to six months to cite an employer following an inspection.

Among state-administered workplace safety agencies, there were 52 inspections of temporary staffing agencies this year, with no declared violations as of Aug. 12. The state plan total is down from the 68 inspections for the same period in 2012, although the number for this year could increase as state agencies submit their inspection information to OSHA.

On a larger scale, federal OSHA inspections of all worksites between April 29 and mid-July identified 262 establishments where temporary workers were “exposed to safety and health violations,” the head of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement, Thomas Galassi, said during a July 18 webinar cosponsored by OSHA and the temporary staffing industry group, the American Staffing Association.

More recent numbers were not available, an OSHA spokesman told BNA Aug. 9.

As a result of the inspections, 270 violations were cited, although that number could grow as inspection reports are completed and citations issued, Galassi said. The most frequent violations were electrical hazards, lockout/tagout protections, machine guarding, fall protection, hazard communication, and powered industrial trucks (forklifts), Galassi said.

Education Emphasis

Stephen Dwyer, general counsel for the American Staffing Association, told BNA Aug. 12 that the association views the OSHA initiative as primarily an education effort. Members do not feel like they are in the midst of an enforcement push, he said.

“The relationship has been a positive one,” he said.

Since the April 29 directive, the association and OSHA co-sponsored the webinar, and in late July association representatives met with OSHA officials, including OSHA administrator David Michaels, Dwyer said.

For OSHA's part, Galassi promised in July that the agency would develop educational materials, including fact sheets, websites, and “best practices” guidance.

A concern of the association is having a common understanding with OSHA about the responsibilities of staffing agencies and the companies that control the workers when they are at the job site, Dwyer said. A typical question might involve when staffing agencies or controlling employers are responsible for recording an injury in an OSHA Form 300 log.

The discussions with OSHA are leading to “clarity to what is sometimes viewed as a murky area,” Dwyer said.

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