OSHA bulletins enforce temp worker safety

Temporary workers in South Carolina should know that OSHA has released two bulletins aimed at staffing agencies and host employers to remind them of their duties to keep employees safe. This is part of the agency's Temporary Worker Initiative. The two bulletins, which are concerned with noise exposure and respiratory hazards, reiterate what OSHA already laid down in its Occupational Noise Standard and Respiratory Protection Standard.

Under those standards, OSHA requires employers to conduct hazard assessments of their workplaces and determine if protective equipment is needed. If respirators or hearing protection is required, neither the staffing agency nor the employer can make the employee pay for it. Also, employers are called to create protection programs when such equipment becomes necessary.

Employers must implement and maintain engineering, work practice and administrative controls to counter both hazards. The staffing agency must at the same time maintain regular communication with employers and employees, inform them of new hazards and take reasonable steps to contain risks.

Lastly, the noise standards require employers to provide audiograms within six months whenever employees are exposed to an eight-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels. The level is 90 decibels for construction industries. Employees are to be paid for the time they take off for the audiogram, and it must be provided at no cost.

When employees suffer an on-the-job injury, they will want to see if they're eligible for workers' compensation. That way, they can file for the benefits the moment they reach maximum medical improvement. It would be a good idea to hire a lawyer who could assist with the filing and, if it comes to it, the appeal.