A worker safety advocacy group is blasting the American Staffing Association (ASA) for ignoring safety at its national conference last week in San Diego.

According to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), the three-day “Staffing World 2016” offered just one session on safety among the more than 60 workshops, plenaries and panels on its agenda. That session? A walking tour of the San Diego Convention Center.

“One out of every six workers who dies on the job in the United States is a temporary or contract worker,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “Saving lives and reducing injuries should be at the top of the industry’s agenda. But with thousands of attendees and dozens of conference sessions, the American Staffing Association is paying scant attention to safety, training, employer responsibility and other issues that can make workplaces safer.”

BLS data shows that more than 800 temporary or contract workers died on the job in 2014.

Alliances with OSHA and the NSC

National COSH is skeptical of the safety partnership OSHA recently renewed with ASA, which has as its goal “protecting temporary employees from workplace hazards.”

“With almost no content on safety at their annual conference, and no worker representatives on the organization’s safety committee, it is unclear whether ASA is fulfilling the terms of its partnership,” said the group in a statement. ASA’s Employee Safety Committee includes only management representatives despite the fact that OSHA alliances require union or worker participation.

For its part, the ASA announced last week that it is partnering with the National Safety Council (NSC) in the Safety Standard of Excellence, a new workplace safety program for the staffing and workforce solutions industry. The program is designed to help reduce the rate and severity of temporary worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the adoption of best practices and encouragement of continuous safety improvement.

“Promoting temporary worker safety and well-being is the responsibility of every staffing firm—and of critical importance to the industry as a whole,” said Stephen Dwyer, ASA general counsel.

“We are excited to work with the staffing industry to prevent temporary worker injuries and deaths,” said Amy K. Harper, Ph.D., NSC director of workplace strategy and Journey to Safety Excellence. “Because temporary workers are placed in a variety of work settings in many different industries, and often for multiple staffing clients, it is critical that their safety be a priority. Staffing firms desiring to lead the industry in protection of temporary workers should take part in this program.”

From compliance to best practices

The program defines for staffing firms the policies and practices necessary for compliance, but goes beyond that to detail best practices, including coordination and collaboration with the host employers they serve. Applying firms will undergo rigorous assessment by NSC consultants measuring against these best practice criteria. Those firms scoring high enough will earn the right to use a special program mark that communicates their dedication to the safety of the workers they place.

To learn more about the Safety Standard of Excellence program, visit americanstaffing.net/sse.

According to the ASA, more than three million workers are on assignment for U.S. staffing companies during a typical work week. A multi-state investigation of the hazards of temporary work by ProPublica found workplace injury rates 36 to 72 percent higher for temporary and contract workers than for full-time employers.  

Aboout National COSH

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org.