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Who is responsible under OSHA’s multiple employer citation policy?

Temporary agency employees work for a “host employer” but are on the payroll of a “primary employer.” A primary employer can be either:

  1. A temporary (temp) agency that hires workers and sends them to work for a host employer, or

  2. A professional employer organization (PEO) that puts a host employer’s employees on the PEO’s payroll as its own employees.

In these dual-employer situations, both the primary employer and the host employer must protect employees from safety and health hazards and comply with OSHA regulations.

OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and host employer specify in their contract their respective responsibilities for complying with applicable regulations.

Such a contract does not eliminate each employer’s legal obligation to protect the employees.

Both employers must implement specific safety programs as required by OSHA regulations, depending on the work environment and the type of work being performed.

In addition, the primary employer must have a “written, effective and fully implemented Injury and Illness Prevention Program.”

Staffing providers are responsible for:

  • Taking reasonable steps to evaluate conditions at the host employer’s worksite by doing periodic inspections.

  • Ensuring their employees are covered by an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program and other safety programs required by the assigned work.

  • Ensuring employees are properly trained and provided necessary personal protective equipment. The training must include hazard recognition, exposure prevention, safe work practices, and the importance of following manufacturers’ instructions and OSHA regulations. (Though even when the staffing employer has provided basic training, the host employer must provide the site-specific training appropriate to the employees’ particular tasks and working conditions)

  • Informing temporary workers that if they are assigned work they reasonably believe to be dangerous, they may refuse to do that work and ask for reassignment without penalty.

Safe Work Practices for Staffing Employers

Common safe work practices for staffing employers to help keep employees safe and healthy at a host employer’s worksite:

  • Be aware of the workplace hazards at the host employer’s worksite. Come to agreement with the host employer as to who will be responsible for providing necessary training for employees.

  • Partner with the host employer to identify areas of the workplace that pose a risk to the employees, ensure appropriate controls are in place to protect employees, and ensure that OSHA standards are being followed.

  • Stay in touch with the employees and monitor their safety and health at work on a regular basis.

  • Be involved in investigations of accidents affecting the employees to find root causes, not just the resulting problems.

  • Be present during investigations, and assist host employers in taking meaningful corrective action.

  • Inform workers of the need to be trained on the manufacturer’s and host employer’s instructions for using specific tools and equipment.

  • Provide the training and education needed by the employees to maintain licenses or certifications required by the host employer.

Reporting, Record-Keeping Requirements

Only one employer is required to log injuries and illnesses; however both staffing agencies and host employers must report serious work injuries and illnesses to appropriate agencies.

When the staffing firm exercises day-to-day supervision over employees, it is responsible for injury and illness record-keeping. When the host employer has full supervisory control over employees, the host employer is responsible for maintaining injury and illness records. And in cases where the staffing firm and host employer share the supervisory role, the two employers should reach an agreement regarding record-keeping.

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