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Worker Safety Groups, Public Health Professionals Release Recommendations to OSHA Chief on Temporary Worker Safety

Monday, November 4, 2013
Press Contacts: 

Dorry Samuels Levine, (508) 277-7997, dorry.samuels@gmail.com

Tim Bell, (773) 230-0351, chicagoworkers@gmail.com

Worker Safety Groups, Public Health Professionals Release Recommendations to OSHA Chief on Temporary Worker Safety 

Recommendations Address Ways to Protect America’s Most Vulnerable Workers

BOSTON – A coalition of workplace safety groups, worker centers and public health professionals have released recommendations to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for how the agency can improve health and safety conditions for temporary workers, some of the country’s most vulnerable employees.

The groups presented their recommendations on Saturday to Dr. David Michaels, the head of OSHA, during a Temporary Worker Health and Safety Forum in Boston held for advocates, academics and organizers. OSHA currently is developing policies to better protect temporary workers on the job.

The recommendations ranged from compelling OSHA inspectors to learn about how temporary workers were trained and what safety materials they received to requiring that employers provide a roster of all workers employed the day of an OSHA investigation and their job titles (both for permanent and temporary employees) so that OSHA may select whomever it wishes to interview.

Other recommendations addressed the need to hold both temporary staffing agencies and host employers responsible for ensuring that temporary workers receive adequate training before facing on-the-job hazards and for recording any injuries that temporary workers may endure.

“Temp workers fall through the cracks,” said Linda Delp, director of the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program and chair of the American Public Health Association’s Occupational Health and Safety Section. “From a public health perspective, we need to know where they’re working, who’s injured on the job and how - so we can improve working conditions. But there are not clear lines of reporting and responsibility for worker safety.”

Added Tom O’Connor, executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, “Temporary workers are even more vulnerable to on-the-job hazards than permanent employees. Many receive insufficient training or are inexperienced with how to protect themselves on the jobsite, but are reluctant to mention that to employers so that they aren’t replaced. At the same time, temporary workers are employed in some of the country’s most hazardous jobs, including waste recycling, fish processing and construction. Unfortunately, this has led to several temporary workers being killed on the job in recent months.”

Companies’ reliance on temporary work has skyrocketed during the recent recession, with temporary help accounting for 15 percent of all job growth nationally during the past four years. The reliability of the data is dubious because some companies may not admit to using temporary labor.

“Jobs that were once direct hires with benefits are now temporary and precarious – rarely leading to permanent work with benefits, but often leading to injuries – as untrained workers are ill-prepared to deal with workplace hazards,” said Michael Muñoz, director of the National Staffing Workers Alliance, which gives a national voice to temporary workers.

Added Rosa Ramirez, who has worked at hundreds of manufacturing facilities through about 20 temporary staffing agencies in Chicago over the last decade, “Because we fear retaliation by staffing agencies, temp workers will not come forward to inform OSHA of dangerous working conditions. Unless OSHA approaches temp labor worksites the way FBI undercover agents infiltrate organized crime, the loss of life and limb will continue to pervade our workplaces.”

“Given the meteoric growth in temporary work and the countless hazards that temp workers face on the job, it is even more imperative that government agencies know how best to protect contingent workers,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH).

See a complete list of the recommendations.

Watch a video of Dr. Michaels’ discussion at the temp forum.

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The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is a federation of local and statewide organizations; a private, non-profit coalition of labor unions, health and technical professionals, and others interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety.

To learn more about the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, visit: http://www.coshnetwork.org.