workerA report compiled on the dismal safety records of staffing agencies used by Chicagoland companies is just “the tip of the iceberg,” according to the public health researcher who crunched the numbers and interviewed the workers .

Because staffing agencies are held responsible for worker injuries, the client companies who use their services have little incentive to make their workplaces safe, says Sohni Choudhary, of the University of Illinois School of Public Health.

An intern with the Chicago Workers Collaborative (CWC), Choudhary put together The Dangerous Dozen: Chicago Region's Temporary Staffing Agencies with High Rates of Worker Injuries.

“A staffing agency cannot control the safety conditions at a workplace even though it is responsible for the injuries.”

Furthermore, accurate injury reporting is affected by the fact that each reported injury raises the agency's insurance premiums.

“All the workers I interviewed reported that the staffing companies use intimidation and retaliation against injured workers to keep them from filing workers comp claims,” said Choudhary. “Based on the interviews, the numerous comp claims filed likely represent only the tip of the iceberg of the actual number of injuries which are happening everyday in companies staffed by these agencies.”

Leading the list is Metro Staff, a temp agency that supplies workers for the Palatine, IL-based Weber Grill factory.  “While most people are familiar with Weber Grills, few of us know about the safety conditions of the workplaces where such name-brand products are manufactured,” according to a statement released by the CWC.

Lack of workers comp insurance leads to injury reporting suppression

Another significant finding in the report is that five of the Dangerous Dozen companies either did not report having insurance or were self-insured.  “When agencies must pay out-of-pocket for costly hospital bills, legal fees, and disability payments an even greater incentive is created for them to stop injured workers from filing worker compensation claims,” says Ms. Choudhary.

"When temp labor workers feel like the staffing agencies have a de-facto 'gag-rule' against speaking up about workplace problems and dangerous conditions, we all lose--workers, companies, and consumers,” says Leone José Bicchieri, CWC's Executive Director. “When temp labor workers don't fear unfair reprisals and firing, they will be safe and healthy at work, be more productive, create higher quality products, and will ultimately cost the companies less money in terms of workplace accidents."

View a photo slideshow of the most dangerous staffing agencies in Chicagoland.

Click here to read the report.