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Temporary workers are some of the most disadvantaged members of the American workforce. They may be at severe risk of being hurt on the job and unaware of their legal rights after an injury. A coalition of worker safety groups recently issued a list of recommendations to improve health and safety conditions for temporary workers.

The coalition presented its recommendations to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Temporary workers are a fact of life in the workforce, particularly in labor-intensive industries such as construction and manufacturing. Temp workers are frequently hired for agricultural and related work. They may not be protected by workers’ compensation laws, which means that when they are injured, they have little legal protection.

Advocacy groups, including the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, recommend that OSHA establish clear responsibilities for both host employers and temporary staffing agencies to ensure compliance with federal safety regulations. That includes better compliance with training rules, provision of personal protection equipment, hazard control measures, and record-keeping of injury and illnesses for temporary workers.

Other recommendations include educating workers about their rights and starting a national emphasis program to focus on high-risk industries that use temp workers.

The recommendations focus on the critical role played by temporary staffing agencies that place temp workers in jobs. The advocacy groups urge OSHA to identify the largest temporary staffing agencies in high-risk industries like construction, warehousing, healthcare and manufacturing and to establish a database of repeat offenders.

The recommendations also call for better oversight of temporary staffing agencies and for OSHA investigations of workplace injuries to determine whether each staffing agency provided proper training in hazard mitigation and kept all required records.

Currently, only limited information is available about the activities of temporary workers and the procedures followed by staffing agencies responsible for their placement. The recommendations may help to clarify the rules for temp agencies and equip OSHA to better protect temporary workers from unsafe workplaces.