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Temporary workers can bring great value and help to an organization and help drive a productive workforce. It’s imperative they receive appropriate and effective training before starting work. Many fatal incidents have occurred when temp workers weren’t provided the training necessary to do their job safely, and many of these fatalities occurred on their first day on the job.

Staffing agency or host employer?

There’s no OSHA regulation devoted to temporary workers and their training. However, OSHA says host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers and provide training that’s identical to or equivalent to that given to permanent employees performing the same or similar work. Temp workers must have a basic ability to identify hazardous situations; know how to report hazards, injuries, and illnesses; and understand their rights if confronted with a hazardous situation at a worksite.

Generally speaking, the staffing agency is responsible for providing generic safety and health training and the host employer – who supervises the day-to-day tasks of the temp worker - is responsible for site-specific training. As an example, if a temp worker is assigned to work with hazardous chemicals, the staffing agency may provide training related to safety data sheets (SDSs), GHS-style labels, and an overview of the hazard communication standard, while the host employer would train on such things as the hazards of the chemicals used in the workplace, how to protect against those hazards (i.e., what personal protective equipment to use), and where SDSs are located.

Regardless of who provides the training, it must be conducted in a manner and language that the temp worker understands.

Defining roles and responsibilities

To ensure there’s a clear understanding of each employer’s roles and responsibilities, OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and the host employer set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract before the temporary work begins. Each employer should consider the hazards it’s in a position to prevent and correct, and in a position to comply with OSHA standards. This will help them better collaborate on responsibilities.

To this end – and to help prevent work-related injuries and illness among temp workers - OSHA implemented a series of Temporary Worker Initiative (TWI) bulletins on specific topics:

  • Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Requirements
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Whistleblower Protection Rights
  • Safety and Health Training
  • Hazard Communication
  • Bloodborne Pathogens
  • Powered Industrial Truck Training
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Noise Exposure and Hearing Conservation
  • The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout)
  • Safety and Health in Shipyard Equipment
  • Exposure to Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards

The bulletins provide guidance and best practices around what the staffing agency and the host employer can do to provide safety and health training to temporary workers.

Key to Remember

Staffing agencies and host employers have a shared responsibility in training temporary workers. Training must be conducted prior to temp workers beginning their assignment and must be identical or equivalent to that given to permanent employees performing the same or similar tasks.