Hiring temporary workers? 10 steps to protect your workforce and your business

Aug 11, 2014

Temporary workersTemporary workers may come and go, but protecting them is just as important as protecting your full time staff. At WSPS's recent national Partners in Prevention Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show, representatives of a human resources law firm, a temporary help agency, and a company that hires temporary workers shared best practices on how to keep these workers safe and protect your business from liability.

Rachel Goldenberg, an associate with Bernardi HR Law in Toronto and Mississauga, started the session with an acting principle for all workplaces. "Treat the temporary workers as you would a regular employee: the same level of instruction, trained in the same way, and supervised in the same way." If you hire an employment agency to supply temporary help, she advised, you're considered a co-employer of the worker(s) and have responsibilities and liabilities under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Co-presenters Yvonne Vernon, health and safety coordinator for Express Employment Professionals, and Steve Hinds, senior health and safety specialist for ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Hamilton, also shared their experiences and advice. Here's what they suggested.

  1. Figure out how you will safely integrate temporary workers before they arrive. "We're often called at the last minute," said Vernon, "so when our people arrive, it's usually after the shift has started. If they don't get the training or orientation they're supposed to, that's when we run into health and safety issues, incidents and injuries." By "we," Vernon means the employment agency and the client firm.
  2. Document all health and safety procedures, and make them accessible to everyone, including temporary workers.
  3. Provide the same level of instruction and supervision to temporary workers as you do to others.
  4. Ensure all workers receive the training necessary to perform their tasks safely. "If industry-specific training is required," said Goldenberg, "check with the agency to determine if the worker has received the necessary training. If so, request a record of it. If the training is workplace specific, provide the training yourself."
  5. Have temporary workers sign off on workplace policies during orientation and before starting work. If an incident occurs and something was done contrary to policy, it's hard to rely on that policy as a defence if there's no evidence the worker has seen and been made aware of it.
  6. Provide all workers with the necessary personal protective equipment. If they have their own, make sure they bring it. Provide the same level of instruction and supervision that you do to regular employees.
  7. If you assign a temporary worker to a new job requiring different skills, advise the employment agency and train the worker. Yvonne Vernon offered this scenario: "A temporary worker goes in expecting to work on an assembly line and the supervisor asks them to shovel snow," said Vernon. "Maybe the worker's not dressed to shovel snow. Maybe he's not capable of shovelling snow, but does what he’s asked and calls in the next day saying he can't go to work because his back is killing him. Now we have a vacancy on the assembly line and a potential WSIB claim."
  8. Monitor temporary workers' health and safety performance, advised ArcelorMittal Dofasco's Steve Hinds. Reinforce safe practices and coach as needed.
  9. Enforce all health and safety procedures and discipline all workers for violations. Document the form of discipline taken so you have a record of enforcement.
  10. Create a third party compliance program if you rely on employment agencies for temporary help or regularly have contractors on site. "ArcelorMittal Dofasco has a very rigorous process we put third parties through to ensure we get companies on our site who are as safe as we are, and embrace the same values we do around protecting people," said Hinds. Watch for more on ArcelorMittal Dofasco's third party compliance program in an upcoming issue of WSPS Network News.

Keep your temporary workers safe with these WSPS resources

From comprehensive course offerings to consulting expertise, Workplace Safety & Prevention Services can help you create and sustain a safe, healthy and productive workplace for permanent and temporary workers. For example: