They've Got Issues

Temporary workers are a great resource, but using them can present an array of complex problems.

May 1, 2009

4 Min Read
They've Got Issues

Jerry Peters

A creation of one of the first temporary staffing agencies, the classic image of the “Kelly Girl” clerical worker has since faded away. Today's temporary agencies are no longer used to provide only clerical professionals or file clerks. They provide light industrial and medical workers as well as accountants, to name just a few.

Many companies have made the decision to use temporary staffing to fill a seasonal void or when short-term assistance is needed during busy times of the year, while others are now using temporary personnel year round. Most choose temporary staffing because it is a flexible resource that can be started or stopped easily. Other benefits of using temporary staffing include the fact that someone else pays the worker's comp premiums; you don't have to pay employee benefits; and there are no termination hassles.

It looks like a nearly perfect employment situation. But looks can be deceiving.

Safety and Health Considerations

Some crucial factors are often overlooked. Who does the safety and health training? Who is completing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping forms? Who will ensure fair and equal treatment? And, is the process really hassle free when you have to tell a temporary agency to stop sending certain employees because of disciplinary issues?

Details should be carefully reviewed before contracts are signed. For example, OSHA recently clarified who is required to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE). A company using temporary workers — known in these situations as the “host/client employer” — must provide certain PPE items, while other items are negotiated with the temporary agency. If the temporary agency doesn't know what the expected PPE is, how can they provide it?

The host/client employer must also consider the necessary safety and health training and who is responsible for providing it. This is a very serious matter requiring a well-thought-out action plan. Remember, temporary employees sometimes work in the same capacity at a company as full-time employees. Therefore, safety and health training is essential for not only compliance purposes, but also for the overall safety goals of both the temporary agency and the employer.

If temporary agencies pay additional costs because of increases in worker's compensation, who do you think is going to pay the higher rates? It will usually mean increased temporary staffing costs for the host/client employer.

Cincinnati-based, Rumpke Consolidated Cos. has chosen to work with its temporary agencies to provide safety and health training. Rumpke developed and trained the temporary agencies it uses in general safety requirements for temporary staffing personnel reporting to its locations. The training program is documented, and a copy is maintained with the staffing agency and also by Rumpke. If additional safety training is required for specific tasks, then task-based training is completed by onsite Rumpke personnel. This training also is documented.

In addition to the compliance issues mentioned previously, some state worker's compensation programs have additional awards for violations of specific safety requirements (VSSR claims). The VSSR claim basically states the employer violated specific safety requirements and therefore contributed to a compensable injury or illness. The VSSR claim may require payment from the host/client employer and not the temporary staffing agency.

Finally, the near misses and injuries of both temporary and full-time employees should always be investigated. Incident investigation is not only used to determine what happened, but also to find out what can be done to prevent future occurrences. The reality is any employee, temporary or full-time, is a company employee, and their safety and protection has to be a priority.

Jerry Peters, RSM, is the manager of corporate OSHA compliance for Cincinnati-based Rumpke Consolidated.

Want to Know More?

Jerry Peters will speak at the “Special Issues for Temporary Workers” session at WasteExpo on Monday, June 8. The session, part of the Labor and Employment Track, will run from 9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

Steven Horowitz, a labor/employment attorney for Roth Horowitz in Springfield, N.J., will be the other speaker.

The session will involve a discussion about legal and safety regulations and overall best practices, as well as necessary considerations for selecting and using temporary personnel.

The presentation will review the often misunderstood term “host/client employer.” Other topics will include contractual terminology and suggestions, record keeping requirements, and employment law and how it relates to temporary staffing agencies.

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