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OSHA pushes temporary employee safety to reduce fatalities

OSHA pushes temporary employee safety to reduce fatalities

LAS VEGAS — The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is pushing companies to educate temporary employees about proper safety procedures due to a number of temporary worker fatalities in recent months, a senior OSHA official said.

David Michaels, OSHA's assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, addressed safety professionals Tuesday afternoon during the American Society of Safety Engineers' Safety 2013 conference in Las Vegas.

OSHA's focus on safety for temporary workers comes on the tail of employment growth in that sector. Temporary help services added 26,000 jobs in May and have seen hiring gains this year, according to a report this month from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At least 14 temporary workers have died during their first day at a new worksite in the past 12 months, Mr. Michaels said.

"People get to work and their first day on the job is their last day on earth," Mr. Michaels said.

Though employers are required to train all workers in safety procedures, Mr. Michaels said companies aren't investing in safety training for temporary workers because of uncertainty about how long such workers will stay on the job.

OSHA inspectors have begun asking temporary workers about whether they have been properly informed about safety protocols, such as lockout-tagout procedures that shut down machines and prevent them from accidentally turning on during maintenance, Mr. Michaels said. The agency is also working with the American Staffing Association and employers that use temporary staffing agencies on an initiative to protect contract workers.

Mr. Michaels said OSHA also is pushing to increase worker safety in the health care and grain handling industries.

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