2014 NSC Congress & Expo coverage: Temporary workers have same rights as permanent, Occupational Keynote stresses

San Diego – Day Davis was so enthusiastic on the first day of his first-ever job that he ran to new assignments. Unfortunately, the 22-year-old’s first day was cut short when thousands of bottles crushed him to death while he was cleaning up broken glass under a palletizing machine.

Davis’ somber story was shared during the 2014 NSC Congress & Expo Occupational Keynote, which addressed the growing risk of injuries that temporary workers face on the job.

“We get too many reports like that,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said during the keynote.

NIOSH Director John Howard framed the conversation by noting the “huge growth” in the use of temporary workers over the past two decades, with upward of 3 million temporary workers now employed throughout the United States. These workers are put in more hazardous jobs and assigned more hazardous tasks – sometimes without the precautions typically afforded to permanent workers, such as training – according to Howard. As a result, temporary workers have higher workers’ compensation claim rates, median time loss rates and injury rates than permanent workers.

Some employers even bring in temporary workers as a means to avoid taking safety precautions, which William Yoh, chairman of Yoh, a Day & Zimmermann company, called “wrong on so many different levels.”

OSHA last year launched a campaign to address the hazards that temporary workers face. The campaign featured enforcement activities and the release of educational materials outlining who is responsible for the safety of temporary workers. It is having an impact, Michaels said, as some employers are ensuring temporary workers receive appropriate training.

Host employers and staffing companies must coordinate safety efforts, both Howard and Michaels said.

“Whether temporary workers or permanent workers, all workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace,” Howard said.

At the conclusion of the keynote, NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman and OSHA’s Michaels signed a five-year agreement to continue the partnership between the agencies.