OSHA Clarifies HazCom Expectations for Staffing Agency, Host Employer Worksites

As part of its ongoing Temporary Worker Initiative, OSHA has issued a new guidance document covering responsibilities for ensuring temporary workers are adequately trained on HazCom.

As OSHA has said before, and as it notes again in this document, staffing agencies and host employers both “share control” and are “jointly responsible” for ensuring temporary workers receive adequate training. But who should be responsible for which parts of the training? The new document answers this question with a number of recommendations and requirements. Let’s look at both.

The new guidance document recommends:

  • That the “staffing agency and host employer should discuss responsibility for each aspect of hazard communication training” so each knows exactly what the other is doing
  • That the same two entities should “inform the other employer when the hazard communication training is completed”

OSHA clearly believes communication between staffing agency and host employer is the foundation of an effective training program. It leaves the specifics somewhat open, but throughout the document seems to make it clear that it would like to see as much contact as is needed to maintain a good working knowledge of all training details. The guidance document also sets out the following requirements by employer type.

Host employers are:

  • Required to provide “site-specific hazard communication information and training on chemical hazards”
  • Responsible for “identifying and communicating information about worksite specific chemical hazards, ensuring appropriate labeling of chemical containers, providing access to SDSs, and providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)”
  • Required to provide a level of training that is “identical or equivalent to the training given to the host employers’ own employees”

The new document also spells out that even if there is a senior person from the staffing agency at the host employer’s worksite at all times, “the presence of that representative does not transfer responsibilities for site-specific training to the staffing agency.”

Conversely, staffing agencies are:

  • Required to provide “generic hazard communication information and training to their employees to explain HCS requirements applicable to different occupational settings that the temporary employees are expected to encounter”
  • Required to provide “information on labels and other forms of warning [as well as] the format and content of SDSs”
  • Required “to inquire and verify that the host employer has adequately fulfilled its shared training responsibilities for assigned employees”

(It’s important to note that this final bullet is, again, not a recommendation but a required duty. To execute it satisfactorily, OSHA suggest staffing agencies “become familiar with the hazards at the host employer’s worksite,” “review the host employer’s hazard communication program and training,” and/or “conduct a walkthrough” of the worksite.)

In its guidance document, OSHA also acknowledges that situations might arise where host employers want to hire temporary workers who are already trained on certain chemical hazards. OSHA says such hiring policies are acceptable, and that “the host employer may specify the qualifications required for temporary workers, including generic hazard communication training, in its contract with the staffing agency.” The key is communication. The host employer has to let the staffing agency know what it is expecting ahead of time.

OSHA originally announced its Temporary Worker Initiative back in April of 2013, and in the time since has issued five related guidance documents. There is reason to think that more may be forthcoming, and that OSHA will continue to devote resources and attention to this issue. One reason underlying this intense focus is the intractable nature of temp worker deaths on the job. In 2011, fatal work injuries involving temp workers and contractors accounted for 12 percent of total fatal work injuries. By 2014, the most recent year for which statistics are available, that figure had risen to 17 percent.

To learn more about OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative, you can visit the webpage here.