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Temp and Contact Workers Have Rights Too!

Factsheet of the "Protecting Workers Who Exercize Rights" Project of the National COSH Network

Have You Heard of OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration - OSHA - is the federal agency established to ensure workers are protected from hazards in the workplace. If your workplace is unsafe you can contact OSHA. OSHA can require that the boss at the place you work correct the hazard.

It's against the law for either your employer (temp agency or subcontractor) or the employer at the site where you are working to punish or fire you for raising a health and safety concern or for calling OSHA. But she or he may try to retaliate against you anyway.

That's why you need to know your rights and how to use them. And you need to know what to do to protect yourself if you're punished or fired.

 Read this fact sheet before using your OSHA rights! 

Work Shouldn't Hurt

Your boss is required by OSHA to provide a workplace that is free of recognized hazards. A hazard is anything that can hurt you or make you sick. Some typical hazards are :

But I'm a Temp Worker. How Do I Fit In?

Under OSHA you have the same rights as permanent workers. This is true even for workers who are employed by temp agencies, sub-contractors and other types of contingent work arrangements. If you have been assigned to a job where hazards may injure you or make you sick, your OSHArights allow you to :

Who Do I Complain To?

If you are exposed to a hazard, want an MSDS on a chemical you're using or want training on a hazardous operation, you would probably want to speak to the boss at the place where you're actually working. But be aware that you boss may contact your temp agency and say that you're a "trouble maker."

If you're afraid the boss will contact your temp agency to get you removed from the job, you may want to go directly to OSHA. You can call your OSHA office, but it would be better to send them a letter. Better yet, ask them to send you an OSHA-7 complaint form. You can ask a family member or, if you have a union, a union representative to sign and send the complaint. If you sign the complaint, you can ask OSHA to keep your name confidential.

The purpose of your complaint is to get an OSHA inspector to come tinto your workplace. You can increase the chances of an inspection if you tell OSHA about clear violations of OSHA standards such as :

Do's and Don'ts When Using Your OSHA Rights

Your boss or temp agency employer can't legally punish or fire you for using your rights!

Can I be Punished for Using My OSHA Rights?

Not legally. It's against the law for a boss to punish you for asking for information, to correct a hazard, or for contacting OSHA. But your boss (either the temp agency boss or worksite boss) may try to break the law. Your boss may do things like change your shift, lower your pay or discipline you after you complain. Your temp agency may try to transfer or even fire you.

If you think the boss or temp agency punished or fired you for using your rights, here's what you can do :

Violators Can Be Punished!

There's always a risk that the boss at your worksite will punish you for using your rights.The boss may call your temp agency and tell them that they no longer need you. That's bad news. The good news is that the boss and temp agency can be punished for violating your rights and endangering your health.

Here's what happened in Milwaukee :

OSHA issued a fine of $450,000 against a Milwaukee hospital and two temp firms that supplied housekeeping workers to the hospital. OSHA cited the hospital for failing to protect workers from infectious hazards and hazardous chemicals.

Temp workers were assigned to the ER, operating room and trauma units without any apparent training on specific hazards. Six temps had needlesticks - a source of Hepatitis B and AIDS. These workers were not tested for infection ( nor treated if found to be infected) as required under OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard.

Besides citing the hospital, OSHA cited two temp agencies. Staffworks Inc. was fined $119,000 for a willful violation of OSHA's BBP standard and it's Right to Know standard. The other agency, Accustaff, was fined $129,000 for failure to follow the BBP standard.

If you need help exercising an OSHA right or filing a complaint for retaliation, contact :

This material has been funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, under grant #46A7-HT51. These materials do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade of names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
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