Contractors cannot rely on the site owner to guarantee the safety of contractor employees, just as owners must take steps to ensure that contractors perform work safely and in compliance with OSHA standards.
On July 15, 2014, Thomas Galassi, OSHA’s Director of Enforcement Programs, released a memorandum addressed to all OSHA regional administrators regarding OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative—a program developed to increase the agency’s focus on the safety of temporary workers. The purpose of the memo was to clarify the responsibilities of staffing agencies and host employees and to remind OSHA field staff of the enforcement policy with respect to temporary workers.
I support OSHA’s temporary worker focus. Employers need to take more steps to ensure that temporary employees don’t fall through the cracks and do not receive adequate safety training.
In our competitive environment, every manufacturer struggles to do more with less and to find capital for “nonproduction” areas, such as maintenance, safety, training, housekeeping and HR. If done in a shortsighted fashion, the employer learns through painful experience the sacred law of “unintended consequences.” Plant Engineering magazine (yes, a lawyer can read such stuff) ran a brief instructive story on harm to production and profits resulting from gradually shifting almost all maintenance functions to production employees. You’re probably thinking that “I wouldn’t do that,” but many employers have eliminated certain housekeeping workers and relied upon production employees to clean up their area or machine. One of the contributing factors to the deadly Imperial Sugar combustible dust explosion was accumulation of material in work areas … in part because operators were supposed to clean up after their shift, and did not do so.
Many employees work alone at a customer’s site or on the road with no immediate supervision or the presence of a safety professional to check for hazards. Some employees, such as journeymen electricians and certified crane operators are trained to operate with minimal supervision. Other workers may be less trained or less equipped to individually analyze their setting. Unfortunately, both types of isolated workers may violate OSHA standards, and preventing that misconduct is more of a problem when employees are working alone.
I was fortunate last week to spend time in Denver with my buddies on the AGC National Safety Committee. We had a good discussion on safety apps and technology, which led into discussions about “can I discipline an employee for taking and posting photos of a work site accident,” or “can we discipline an employee for cursing the company, saying derogatory things, and pasting our logo on his Facebook, “kick” or other social media site?” We then discussed whether an employer could prohibit taking and posting photos of a customer’s site, including where secret or proprietary equipment and processes might be involved … and how to respond if the owner of a multiemployer site told the contractor not to allow photos and and posting of about their company or property? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s first review a few social media basics.
I have been surprised to see so little commentary on the outgoing Deputy Assistant Secretary’s April 29 announcement of OSHA ramping up its focus on Temporary Workers. Ed talked a bit earlier this week about OSHA's new initiative and I'll provide additional practical observations.
I’m not talking about kindergarten playtime or its “adult” equivalent … politics.
Any time multiple employers are involved, labor and employment matters becomes much more complicated. The classic example is a construction site. OSHA refers to such settings as “multi-employer worksites.” Multi-employer sites are not limited to construction sites. Do you use temps? Have contractors or consultants performing work onsite? Maintain locations in malls, resorts, or arenas? Host trade shows? Build autos, aircraft or ships? On occasion, every worksite becomes a “multi-employer site.
Let’s continue our discussion of employer “Willful” behavior. OSHA can be inconsistent in its application of the classification, and it is often up to the employer to establish the distinction between “serious” and “willful” behavior during and after an OSHA inspection.