Temporary labor is on the rise in the United States. In 2017, nearly 11% of the American workforce was composed of temporary employees. Temporary work connects pre-screened, pre-qualified workers to host employers. Temporary employment is appealing because it allows employers to find high-quality employees quickly and conveniently, without the hassle of hiring new employees. For employees, it provides flexibility and dynamism in their work, allowing skilled laborers to work on a wide variety of projects. It also allows workers to find to work quickly, rather than waiting out the hiring process, which can often take months.
When working with temporary employees, it is more important than ever to consider how to work safely. Temporary employees are often employed in higher-risk industries, which causes them to find themselves in jobs that place them at a higher risk of injury. Sometimes, employers cut corners when working with temporary employees, not providing them with proper communication, training, or reporting. Below, we give an overview of some of the most important steps you can take to ensure your workers’ health and safety while on the job.
Above all, communication is the key to providing your temporary employees with a safe work environment. Communication ensures that everyone is on the same page, aware of potential hazards on the job, and is working together to mitigate those risks and use safe practices. Especially with temporary employees that you may not know as well as other employees, it’s important to clearly communicate (and perhaps even over-communicate) in order to ensure that they satisfactorily understand their role in the workplace and the hazards that they may encounter.
A lack of communication can quickly become a major risk factor for temporary employees. Host employers should communicate openly and often in order to communicate employees’ roles and also to communicate the employers’ obligations to the employee in terms of safety training, PPE, labor instructions, and various other workplace health and safety management responsibilities. Temporary employees should understand exactly what you’re doing to ensure that they’re safe on the job.
Communication should start early. This means not only should employers communicate information as soon as possible, but also that they should create infrastructure for communicating with employees. It is important that temporary employers implement formal systems of communication for their workers. This allows host employers to communicate employment responsibilities, hazards, and protocol to workers on a regular basis. It also provides temporary employees with space to ask questions and communicate concerns with their employer. This may look like having a daily standing meeting that creates space for employers to communicate with their temporary employees and set expectations for the day. This can also serve as an opportunity to provide temporary workers with brief training sessions and reminders about best practices.
Ultimately, the safety of temporary workers rests on good communication between host employers and workers. Temporary workers can’t be expected to understand the nuances of every part of the job as soon as they’re hired, rather, they should receive that information often and openly from their employer.
Health and Safety Trainings
Often, temporary employees are needed on short-term notice, leaving little room for comprehensive trainings before they begin. It’s important to create infrastructure to train temporary employees quickly, effectively, and remotely if necessary. Trainings ensure that temporary workers are prepared to practice safe behaviors at work and ensure their own well-being and the well-being of others. Tragically, under-trained temporary workers fall victim to injuries and health issues more often than permanent employees, and this can be mitigated with adequate training.
There are a number of options for training temporary employees. Temporary employers can choose e-learning or remote learning in order to prepare workers for the job. It has been found that remote learning often reduces the cost of trainings, and can even be more effective than in-person learning for millennial laborers. There are user-friendly learning management systems available that allow employers to build custom training content. It’s important that trainings are delivered in a language and style that participants are able to understand, and remote-learning systems can help with that. Alternatively, in-person trainings allow employees to learn from one another and begin collaborating before they begin the job. In-person learning can be more dynamic and can allow participants to use their hands and practice the skills that the training is aimed at teaching.
Most importantly, trainings should prepare temporary workers to identify potential safety issues in the workplace, avoid them, and control the hazards that may pose a threat to their workspace. Trainings should verify that employees have gained the information and skills that will allow them to mitigate risk in the workplace and avoid hazards. Training assessments should occur before temporary employees begin work and should be specific to their job responsibilities.
And remember, trainings should only occur when employees begin working. Trainings should recur at intervals to ensure that temporary employees remember the information that’s been provided to them and that it stays fresh. It’s easy for employees to fall into bad habits and cut corners, and it’s important to remind them of the potential hazards that they face if they do not follow proper health and safety protocol.
Injury and Illness Reporting
It’s important that host employers that hire temporary employees use a formal system for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. This information is vital to providing employers with information and data about injuries and illnesses in the workplace that help to identify the causes of workplace hazard and give employers the tools to create safer systems for their employees.
These reporting systems should have consistent procedures, and these procedures should be clearly communicated to employees and supervisors. Supervisors should report all injuries and illnesses that happen on the job quickly and comprehensively to allow the employer to quickly respond and institute corrective actions to ensure the safety of all workers.
Employees should be able to access the reporting system, and should not be discouraged from honestly reporting. Creating an open and honest culture around reporting illness and injury is important to gathering complete and accurate data, and also allows employees to communicate with one another about the hazards they are encountering on the job. This will help to keep all individuals safe while on the job.
Safety on the Job
For any employer beginning to work with temporary employees, safety on the job should be a central and pressing concern. It’s important to protect temporary workers from illness and injury by instituting effective systems for communication, training, and reporting that will help to ensure the safety of temporary workers.