PS: How did Selectemp get involved with Oregon OSHA?
Duane: Our plan was to establish Selectemp as a leader in the staffing industry and my part in this was to build a rapport with Oregon OSHA and our workers' compensation insurer. In doing so, we got involved in the Oregon OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). Selectemp was the first staffing service ever to graduate from SHARP. While going through that process, we recognized how important it was to partner with our clients. In 2000, Oregon OSHA invited a few staffing services and leasing firms to form a staffing industry stakeholders group. As a result, we helped the agency develop program directive A-246 that provides guidance to Oregon OSHA staff when working with temporary service providers and worker leasing companies.
PS: What are the responsibilities of host employers and staffing services under the directive?
Duane: The program directive in Oregon, A-246, spells out the responsibilities of the host employer (client) and of the temporary service or leasing firm. We have a coemployer relationship and responsibilities. For a staffing/leasing company to hire and place employees, it must understand the hazards that its employees will encounter. A staffing/leasing company must provide generic training in PPE, lockout/tagout, GHS/HazCom, confined space and hazards associated with office environments. Selectemp also limits the heights at which employees can work. For example, no employee can work over 6 ft unless it is preapproved by our safety department, meaning it goes through me. In such situations, I personally visit the site, interview the on-site supervisor and view exactly what the employees will be doing.
Before placing an employee on a job, Selectemp provides generic training. We educate employees on the hazards involved, and we review the job description, required PPE and physical requirements to ensure that the employee fully understands and is okay with performing those duties. After an employee has been placed on-the-job, our staff follows up with the employee and our client to ensure that additional site-specific training has been completed, and emphasize, again, that we only provide generic training and it is the client's responsibility to provide site-specific training.
PS: How can staffing agencies streamline the generic training process?
Duane: Establish a screening process for applicants, such as a minimum work history, and conduct reference checks. Develop a generic safety training process. Once hired, have the employee watch a safety video that provides a generic review of safety, then ask a series of questions to assess what the employee learned. Also, review your employee policy and procedures.
PS: What is the source of the disconnect in handling and training temporary workers?
Duane: The host employer (client) in some cases assumes that the temporary service provides the training and in turn the temporary service doesn't ask the question or follow up to ensure that training is being provided. That is why communication is imperative; all involved must understand their roles. A temporary/leasing company must educate its clients on their responsibilities and those that belong to the temporary/leasing company. That is where Selectemp has been successful.
PS: How have you ensured host employer compliance?
Duane: The first thing we do is ensure that our clients understand Oregon OSHA's coemployer responsibilities. We also ask a series of questions to determine who the employee's supervisor will be. We also ask for a copy of the job description so we can match the right employee to the job. This has been beneficial because when a client calls we already know what the job consists of and what it requires physically, and we have that coded so that our database search only yields employees who match those criteria. This way, we are placing people in jobs that they can do.
Another action I recommend is to visit client sites and see what your employees are doing or will be doing. When I walk through a client site, there may be some areas that I will not authorize our employees to work in based on the risk factors. We let the client know these restrictions up front. We also meet the supervisors so that when our staff follows up with our employees they can verify who employees are working for. If an employee names a supervisor in an unapproved area, we contact the client to ensure that our employees are working where they are supposed to be.
PS: Do you ever turn employers down?
Duane: We have. Selectemp has criteria that the host employer must meet, just as our clients have expectations of what we provide. We have also pulled employees when a client fails to provide a safe work environment. You have to ask the right questions to ensure that you are aware of exactly what the client is looking for in employees and what jobs your employees will be performing so they can clearly understand the hazards.
We try to manage our risk and our exposure. What I think many clients don't understand is that the temporary business is actually underwriting their workers' compensation when we supply employees. So we have to look at all risks and all exposures, just like an insurance company does. Like an insurer, there are companies we will work with and others where the risk is too high.
PS: If an incident occurs, how do you handle the investigation?
Duane: If an incident occurs, our client must conduct its analysis and we must conduct ours. I start internally and begin my incident analysis by reviewing the placement process. Did we place someone in the right job or did we place the person in a job that s/he was not physically able to perform or did not fully understand? Did we set the worker up to fail because s/he wasn't qualified to do the job? From there, I visit the job site to interview supervisors and coworkers.
Under OSHA's directive, agency personnel are going to focus on this analysis/investigation as well as training. What is the temporary service doing in its training before sending an employee out? Does the employee understand the job s/he is going to, is
s/he prepared? Who is providing safety equipment? What is the client doing in terms of site-specific training? To assist clients, Selectemp helps them develop written safety programs and plans.
PS: How might the entire process be improved?
Duane: Be proactive. Educate your staff and provide them the opportunity to visit client sites and see what is going on so they have a better understanding of where they are placing employees.
Also, have clear communication and expectations. For example, at the end of every year, Selectemp sends an OSHA 300 log to clients who had injuries, including the total number of hours for all of our employees who work at their job site in the year, not just those who were injured, so that clients can add those hours to their total hours. We also send hours to clients who had no injuries so they can add those hours to their numbers as well.
Avoid using the phrase conducting an investigation because some people tend to pull back for fear of getting into trouble or thinking someone else will. The phrase conducting an analysis may seem less threatening. Explain that you are analyzing what occurred and that you need their help to create an action plan to prevent it from happening again.
PS: Any final thoughts on safety for temporary workers?
Duane: If you are a staffing service, encourage clients to treat your employees as if they were theirs. Reinforce the coemployer responsibilities, let them know that you don't have forklifts, punch presses or confined spaces in your office, so it is hard for you to provide site-specific training. Explain that you provide a generic review of hazards or exposures, but it is critical that the client conducts site-specific training and continues to train once the employees are on site. Basically, you are educating the employee and your clients train them.
Duane Grange is the safety director at Selectemp Employment Services, Eugene, OR. He serves on the Oregon SHARP Alliance Board, which provides training, networking and mentoring opportunities. He has been a member of the ASSE Cascade Chapter since 1995 and is a past president. He is also a member of the Columbia-Willamette Chapter is its government affairs coliaison.