A recent case involving the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and some New Jersey staffing agencies sends a signal that temporary staffing agencies are obligated to do more than just place people in a job.
In certain circumstances, agencies must also provide adequate medical evaluations, training and other services, according to OSHA, which recently cited two staffing agencies that had placed workers at a Fiabila USA Inc. nail polish manufacturing plant in Mine Hill, N.J.
Here’s What Happened
Following a complaint, an OSHA inspection determined that Fiabila workers and temporary workers employed by two NJ staffing agencies were exposed to hazards and other dangerous safety and health violations while working at the plant.
A Dover, NJ-based staffing firm provided general labor staff to the nail polish manufacturing plant, while a NJ clinical & scientific staffing firm placed employees in Fiabila’s quality control laboratory. Both staffing agencies were cited for failure to train temporary workers about such issues as chemical hazards, emergency action plans, and proper use of a respirator. In addition to steep fines levied by OSHA against Fiabila, the Dover firm faces $18,000 in fines for three “serious” violations, while the Parsippany office of the clinical & scientific staffing firm was cited for two “serious” citations that carry a $12,000 penalty.
“Whether temporary or permanent, workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace,” says Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA’s Parsippany Area Office. “Staffing agencies and host employers are joint employers of temporary workers. Both are responsible for providing and maintaining safe working conditions free of potentially fatal hazards.”
So What Does This Mean for Me?
OSHA seems to be taking a hard line against staffing agencies when it comes to training. The agency appears to be taking the position that it’s not enough to simply contract with a client—instead, staffing agencies need to identify and comply with onsite safety training and other requirements. This could mean more expenses for staffing agencies as they dig deeper into understanding a client’s operations.
There is a positive side to this, since a staffing agency that thoroughly understands its clients’ operations may be able to stand out from competitors by offering better client service. A staffing agency that takes a leading role in training its workers can use this as a selling point to woo potential new clients.
Thanks-So What Should I Do?
Urbach & Avraham works with several excellent law firms that specialize in employment law and OSHA issues. We can help you work with employment attorneys to consider your agency’s responsibilities, and to identify documentation requirements, program activity and other ways to minimize your potential exposure to liability.