Temporary Workers: Not Just a ‘Guest Employee’

Employees are not defined by OSHA based on who pays them. What matters is whether there is an employer-employee relationship between the parties. Criteria OSHA uses to determine that relationship includes:

  • The nature and degree of control the hiring party asserts over the manner in which the work is done.
  • The degree of skill and independent judgment the temporary worker is expected to apply.
  • The extent to which the services provided are an integral part of the employer’s business.
  • The right of the employer to assign new tasks to the worker.
  • Control over when the work is performed and how long it takes.

So, if you have temporary workers in your plant and you are telling them how, when and where to do their job, and the work they do is integral to your business, under OSHA they are your employees. If they get hurt or need training, personal protective gear, hearing exams, medical surveillance or air monitoring, they must receive the same treatment as your regular employees.

Recording injuries to temporary workers on your property and under your supervision are to be included in your OSHA 300 log for all employees, including “recordable injuries and illnesses that occur to employees who are not on your payroll if you supervise these employees on a day-to-day basis.” You can’t provide protective equipment for your employees and charge your temps for it or make them provide their own. You can’t deny temps Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) information or copies of air sampling results.

In recent months, OSHA has received a series of reports about temporary workers suffering fatal injuries, many during their first days on a job. OSHA has issued citations when the employer failed to provide adequate protections, including safety training.

Training may be the most commonly violated requirement of all. Every OSHA standard that requires training requires the training before a worker is exposed to the hazard. The problem for temporary workers is the often short notice and transient nature of many of the jobs. Finding a temp who has documented training on hazardous waste operations and emergency response awareness, hazard communication, personal protective equipment, forklift operation and hearing conservation is certainly a logistical challenge.

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