OSHA marks Workers Memorial Day by focus on contract workers

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WASHINGTON - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration honored Workers Memorial Day, April 28, by focusing on deaths among one of the most vulnerable groups of employees, contract workers.

"Many of those killed and injured are temporary workers who often perform the most dangerous jobs, have limited English proficiency and are not receiving the training and protective measures required," said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels. "Workers must be safe, whether they've been on the job for one day or for 25 years."

The most recent data available, from the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, show contract workers, defined as workers "employed by one firm but working at the behest of another that controls the job site," suffered 542 on-the-job deaths that year, out of a national total of 4,693. One fifth of contractor deaths were in construction.

"Given the number of temporary workers and the recent high profile fatal incidents, the agency is making a concerted effort using enforcement, outreach and training to assure temporary workers are protected from workplace hazards," an agency headquarters memo to its field inspectors says.

"Employers have a duty to provide necessary safety and health training to all workers regarding workplace hazards. To determine whether employers are complying," OSHA inspectors should "determine within their inspections whether any employees are temporary workers and whether any of the identified employees are exposed to a violative condition." Inspectors should also interview the "contract workers" to see if they got required safety training "in a language and vocabulary they understand."

And recent OSHA inspections showed that "temporary workers have not been trained and were not protected from serious hazards due to lack of personal protective equipment" when working with chemicals, among other hazards, the agency said.

Photo: Bob Self/AP & The Florida Times Union

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