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Host Employers, Staffing Firms Cited for Workplace Hazards
OSHA’s focus on temporary workers racking up citations

By Roy Maurer  7/1/2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) initiative to improve workplace safety and health for temporary workers is netting a brisk business issuing citations.

From June 9-30, 2014, the agency announced citations against four host employers and seven staffing companies in three separate incidents.

OSHA launched an initiative focused on temporary worker safety in 2013. OSHA compliance officers have been instructed to interview temporary workers, if any, during the course of inspections on what kind of safety training and protections they’ve received. Depending on the findings, the employment agency and host employer may both be cited for violations.

OSHA also signed an alliance in May 2014 with the American Staffing Association to conduct outreach to workers, educate staffing firms and their clients on their safety responsibilities, and develop ways of communicating OSHA guidance to staffing firms, host employers and temporary workers.

Citations Adding Up

On June 9, OSHA fined seafood processing company Sea Watch International $35,410 following the death of a worker at a New Bedford, Mass., plant in January 2014. 

The company was cited for failing to implement lockout/tagout procedures that protect workers who clean machinery. The agency also fined Workforce Unlimited Inc., the Johnston, R.I., temporary employment company that supplied temporary workers to the plant, $9,000 for lack of lockout/tagout procedures, lack of chemical hazard communication training and exposing workers to ladder hazards. Workforce Unlimited Inc. was cited as a joint employer because it had a supervisor onsite with knowledge of the working conditions. Even though the deceased worker was not from the temp agency, most of the plant’s workforce was supplied by Workforce Unlimited.

On June 12, OSHA announced $6,000 fines each for the company contracted by online retailer Amazon to operate a fulfillment center in Avenel, N.J., and four staffing agencies used to supply temporary labor. On Dec. 4, 2013, temporary worker Ronald Smith died from injuries sustained after he was caught in a conveyor system and crushed while performing sorting operations at the facility. The operating company and the four staffing firms were cited for not certifying that a worksite hazard assessment had been conducted. Amazon was not cited in the case.

N.J.-based Maplewood Beverage Packers and Corporate Resource Services Corp., the agency that supplied labor to the bottling company, were cited by OSHA on June 18 for health and safety violations found at the company’s Maplewood plant following a referral from the Maplewood Fire Department after a temporary worker was injured after falling from a ladder.

OSHA proposed $171,270 in penalties for Maplewood Beverage for a variety of violations including not providing employees with annual audiograms, failure to provide proper machine guarding, excessive noise, slip, trip and fall hazards, and failure to train employees.

OSHA cited the temp agency for failure to conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace and failure to inform employees about the effects of noise on hearing. The violations carry an $11,000 penalty.

Finally, Fresh From Texas Inc., a fresh fruit and vegetable processer, and staffing agency iWorks Personnel Inc. were cited June 30 for a number of violations. Fresh From Texas was fined $128,900, for violations including failing to prevent workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals, failure to identify respiratory hazards in the workplace, and failure to implement a hearing conservation program. OSHA inspectors found that temporary workers employed by iWorks Personnel were exposed to chemical hazards and were not trained on chemical safety, and fined the temp agency $6,300.

“Temporary staffing agencies and [the] host employer are jointly responsible for the safety and health of temporary employees,” said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA’s Avenel, N.J., area office, in a statement. “These employers must assess the worksite to ensure that workers are adequately protected from potential hazards … It is essential that employers protect all workers from job hazards, both temporary and permanent workers.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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