In July, OSHA issued a new policy memorandum on temporary worker safety which clarifies the responsibilities of host employees and agencies providing labor. The memo defines the term "joint employer" and provides guidance to investigators of when inspections should be done. This memo is part of OSHA's effort to increase oversight of workplace hazards faced by temporary workers.
The memo is four pages and defines covered employees as those "hired and paid by a staffing agency and supplied to a host employer to perform work on a temporary basis." The paper clarifies that in these situations, OSHA will treat the staffing agency and host employer as "joint employers" of the temporary workers and each is responsible for compliance with legal requirements applicable to employers.
The memo recommends that OSHA inspectors review written contracts between staffing agencies and host employers to determine whether employee safety is addressed, although contractual language may not excuse either party from liability under OSHA.
Generally, the host employer has primary responsibility for identifying workplace hazards and complying with worksite-specific requirements. However, the staffing agency also has a duty to ensure it isn't sending workers to unsafe work sites. Agencies have a “duty to diligently inquire and determine what, if any, safety and health hazards are present at their client's workplaces."
The memo clarifies that the decision of an OSHA inspector to investigate a staffing agency does not depend on whether or not a staffing agency management representative is at the worksite. If a temporary worker could be exposed to a serious hazard or if the staffing agency doesn't appear to have taken any actions to learn of the worksite conditions, then the inspector should initiate an inspection.