OSHA Clarifies Responsibilities for Protecting Temporary Workers from Noise, Airborne Contaminants

Published July 5, 2018

​Two bulletins recently published by OSHA address respiratory protection and noise exposure and hearing conservation for temporary workers. The bulletins are part of a series of guidance documents developed under OSHA’s Temporary Worker Initiative, which is intended to help host employers and staffing agencies understand their responsibilities for protecting temporary workers.

One bulletin addresses the protection of temporary workers who are exposed to airborne contaminants under OSHA’s general industry and maritime standards. OSHA states that staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for ensuring that workers wear appropriate respirators when required, but that the employers may decide that a division of the responsibility is appropriate. Because host employers have control over the processes and equipment that may produce respiratory hazards, they are primarily responsible for evaluating exposure levels, implementing and maintaining controls, providing appropriate respirators, and maintaining a respiratory protection program. According to OSHA, staffing agencies must also take “reasonable steps” to ensure that workers are protected from occupational hazards. For example, staffing agencies should be aware of the respiratory hazards to which temporary workers may be exposed, the protective measures implemented by the host employer, and the requirements for respiratory protection at the host employer’s work site. Learn more from OSHA’s bulletin (PDF).

The second new bulletin describes what both host employers and staffing agencies can do to ensure that temporary workers who are exposed to hazardous noise levels are appropriately protected in accordance with OSHA standards. According to the agency, host employers are usually responsible for determining noise exposure levels; implementing and maintaining engineering, administrative, and work practice controls; providing appropriate hearing protection; and maintaining a hearing conservation program. Staffing agencies share responsibility for workers’ safety and health and are obligated to become familiar with noise exposure hazards and controls in place at host employers’ work sites prior to assigning workers. More information, including an example scenario involving a metal equipment manufacturer, is available in the noise exposure and hearing conservation bulletin (PDF).

Previous guidance documents in OSHA’s temporary worker series include bulletins on injury and illness recordkeeping requirements, safety and health training, hazard communication, and bloodborne pathogens. These and other resources for protecting temporary workers can be found on the agency’s page on protecting temporary workers.