OSHA Issues New PPE Guidance for Temporary Staffing Firms
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Safety in the Workplace
In conjunction with the Temporary Worker Initiative, the Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) has been releasing guidance documents to assist temporary staffing firms and host employers in determining their specific responsibility for safety in the workplace. As part of this initiative, another guidance document was recently released covering personal protective equipment (PPE). PPE can cover a wide variety of items but most commonly consists of hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, etc. For safety, PPE is meant to be the last line of defense. If a hazard exists which cannot be engineered out or controlled by administrative controls, PPE provides one more level of protection for workers exposed to that particular hazard.
The highlights of how OSHA sees PPE in a joint employer situation are as follows:
- The host employer has the primary responsibility of selecting, providing and ensuring use of PPE for temporary employees as they are more familiar with the hazards, retain more control over the workplace and should have already completed them for their permanent employees.
- The staffing agency must take reasonable steps to ensure that PPE hazard assessments were completed and that PPE is being provided to the temporary employees.
- The host employer is typically best suited to provide the required PPE training, but there’s nothing to specify who must provide it. The key is to make sure the employees are trained, regardless of who delivers it.
- PPE must be provided to temporary employees at no cost (with some key exceptions). The staffing firm may provide some of the PPE required as long as the host employer ensures it’s the correct PPE. If an agreement is made where the staffing firm is going to provide PPE, it should be detailed in writing, likely as part of the contract.
The need for PPE is determined using a PPE Hazard Assessment. This document is meant to assist employers in evaluating which PPE is appropriate for the hazards at their workplace. For example, if employees must touch hot materials to move them from one area to another, the assessment would indicate that there’s a hazard for burns to the hand, which can be controlled by heat-resistant gloves. Once the PPE has been determined, it’s then the employer’s responsibility to provide that PPE to employees and train them on the PPE they’re required to use.
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