At a time when many companies are turning to independent contractors or temporary workers, OSHA is initiating a big push to make sure these temps are getting the training and instruction they need to stay safe on the job.
"In recent months, we have received a series of reports of temporary workers suffering fatal injuries during the first days on a job. In some cases, the employer failed to provide safety training or, if some instruction was given, it inadequately addressed the hazard, and this failure contributed to their death," Thomas Galassi, director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs, wrote in a memo to regional administrators. OSHA stands for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Last August, Lawrence Daquan "Day" Davis, 21, was crushed to death by a palletizer machine at Bacardi Bottling Co. in Jacksonville, Fla. He was an employee of a temporary staffing agency and he was killed on his first day on the job. Bacardi was cited by OSHA on Feb. 8, 2013.
Galassi asked OSHA's inspectors to determine if employees at a job site are temporary, and if they are, to make sure they are receiving safety instructions "in a language and vocabulary" they understand.
"Recent inspections have indicated problems where temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious workplace hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment when working with hazardous chemicals and lack of lockout/tagout protections, among others," he wrote.
Galassi said that OSHA's software has been changed to accommodate coding so that information about temporary workers can be tracked. He asked inspectors to ascertain the name and address of the temporary agency and to determine the nature of the employment relationship.
In a newsletter, OSHA cited a recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Statistics involving data about workers killed on the job in 2011. "Fatal work injuries involving contractors accounted for 542 – or 12 percent – of the 4,693 fatal work injuries reported. Hispanic/Latino contractors accounted for 28 percent of fatal work injuries among contractors, well above their 16 percent share of the overall fatal work injury total for the year," the newsletter said.
The newsletter also noted that OSHA is working with the American Staffing Association, an industry group, on this issue.
In Philadelphia, PhilaPOSH, the Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health, has been focused on this issue for several years. It offers free training on fall protection. This kind of training is routine for union construction workers, but the PhilaPOSH effort is aimed directly at contractors and subcontractors who may be using a less experienced, or perhaps temporary, workforce.