Whether you’re reading this column while attending Gear Expo or after you’ve returned, I hope this year’s event has proven to be a productive experience. And, of course, I hope that you enjoyed yourself. As we discussed in a previous column, it is the ideal way of meeting and exchanging ideas with your counterparts in the industry. In this day of social media interaction—i.e. Twitter, Facebook, e-books, e-mail, e-conferences, etc.—it seems that we have very few face-to-face conversations with our peers, so we really need to take advantage of these opportunities when they occur.
A subject that I previously hadn’t given a lot of thought to recently came to my attention. In the past few months OSHA has been emphasizing enforcement of its regulations concerning temporary staffing agencies. Many of us in this industry make use of these agencies when critical employees are away from work for various reasons, or when a sudden increase in production is required on a temporary basis. The question is: Are you aware that even though the staffing agency is responsible for insurance coverage such as workman’s compensation, you as the employer are responsible for their safety training, personal protection equipment, and proper safety supervision? It is highly recommended that when using a temporary staffing agency, you have a clear understanding of your responsibilities in regard to the employee’s safety and the procedures that are required by the staffing agency in the advent of an accident. Many agencies have their own medical staff available and require that the injured party be brought to them. This can be either a convenience or an inconvenience, depending upon your previous preparation.
You can see how using temporary agencies can and should actually be a safety concern. This is a subject that should be covered in every company’s safety handbook, and updated as often as the other topics in your safety handbooks. It is also a subject that you should be discussing with your insurance carrier. While the temporary staffing agency is usually responsible for the workman’s compensation insurance, if their guidelines for the training and protection of their employees are not strictly followed and there is an accident, your company could be in for a nasty lawsuit. Your insurance company will probably be happy to assist you in preparing for such an event, and quite possibly offer helpful suggestions and even materials that can be used to train the temporary employees. At any rate, you must consider your safety obligations the next time you consider using a temporary employment agency.
I recently read about OSHA being in trouble, with the budget cuts being made due to the poor economy. While it is true that there are cutbacks everywhere, including OSHA, do not believe the rumor that the agency is on its way out or will become only a shell of its former self. The need for this regulatory agency is still there, and while it may be a little less effective in the short term, the unions and safety minded people will bring it back if necessary.
A good publication to download from www.osha.gov is “Principle Emergency Response and Preparedness Requirements and Guidelines.” This is a 2004 publication that does a good job of outlining the things OSHA is looking for when they inspect.
The weather this year has wreaked havoc in many diverse areas of the country, and the year—and the hurricane season—is not yet over. There have been more catastrophic disasters this year than during any we can remember. We need to have our disaster preparedness plans reviewed and updated, and also to make sure that they are realistic. Many of our friends in the industry have been impacted by the unusual weather this year, and I hope that they have found their plans to work as they expected. Please review your plan to be sure that you have a backup just in case you need it.