On Safety

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Temporary workers in Ontario falling through the cracks?

July 9, 2014

The safety of temporary workers has been big news recently, but the issue isn’t confined to the United States.

Ontario’s Institute for Work and Health recently released a video (see below) addressing the challenges the Canadian province faces regarding temporary workers.

“Low-wage temp agency workers are falling through the cracks of our health and safety system,” Ellen MacEachen, IWH senior scientist, says in the video.

Temp workers in Ontario find themselves in a “gray zone,” according to MacEachen. Similar to the United States, these workers essentially have two employers – the temporary agency that hires them out, and the client employer that puts them to work.

But who is in charge of these workers’ safety?

In the United States, whoever supervises on a day-to-day basis is in charge of that worker’s safety and training. But under Ontario law, MacEachen said, a worker’s health and safety is a responsibility shared by the temp agency and client employer.

However, workers’ compensation legislation in the province only recognizes one employer as being responsible: the temp agency. Essentially, an injury on a worksite becomes the problem of the temp agency, not that of the employer who controls the site.

“What this does is weaken the incentive for client employers to protect temporary agency workers who work on their worksites,” MacEachen says.

The institute has offered some recommendations for improvement in Ontario, including holding client employers responsible for temp-worker injuries occurring on their worksite and under their supervision, and targeting for inspection worksites in which large numbers of temp workers are employed.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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