OSHA Allows Temp Workers Full Whistle-Blower Rights

OSHA Allows Temp Workers Full Whistle-Blower Rights

This spring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued two new guidance documents for employers of temporary workers. The first was dedicated to improving the use and implementation of personal protective equipment, while the second concerned whistle-blower protection rights. The briefs are the latest development in the agency’s Temporary Worker Initiative, which aims to ensure that there is a clear understanding of each employer’s role in protecting employees in joint-employment situations.

According to the whistle-blower bulletin, temp workers will be afforded the same rights and protections as other workers under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. As such, temporary workers should be free and encouraged to report injuries or raise concerns about unsafe work conditions to their employer, OSHA or other government agencies. Due to Section 11 regulations, both the staffing agency and the host employer are forbidden from retaliating against workers for participating in any protected activity of reporting injuries and concerns.

The bulletin emphasized that it is the joint responsibility both employers assume for worker safety and health and the fact that neither the staffing agency nor the host employer is exempt from liability simply because the other failed to fulfill its responsibilities. OSHA recommends that temporary staffing agencies and host employers set out their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their initial contracts in order to avoid professional and employment practices liability disputes. Doing so can help ensure that each employer complies with all relevant regulatory requirements, thereby avoiding confusion as to the employer’s obligations.

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