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Temp Industry Trade Association Whitewashes Safety Issues, Says National COSH

Thursday, October 27, 2016
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

SAN DIEGO, CA – The American Staffing Association, trade group for the fast-growing temporary and contract worker industry, has ignored critical safety issues at “Staffing World 2016,” a national conference taking place this week in San Diego.

“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 the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), which advocates nationwide for workplace safety. “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.”

More than 800 temporary or contract workers died on the job in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earlier this week, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) renewed a safety partnership with ASA, with the goal of “protecting temporary employees from workplace hazards.”  But 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.

A review of the three-day conference agenda – more than 60 workshops, plenaries and panels – shows just one session at Staffing World 2016 devoted to safety – a walkaround of the San Diego Convention Center.

“Temp workers often don’t get the training they need and constantly face hazards on the job,” said Dave DeSario, a former temp employee and producer of “A Day’s Work,” an award-winning film about the death of temporary worker Day Davis. “Unfortunately, the industry seems more interested in cleaning up its image than in cleaning up the workplaces where temp workers are exposed to injuries, illnesses and sometimes life-threatening conditions.”

“ASA’s Employee Safety Committee includes only management representatives and zero employees,” DeSario said, “although OSHA alliances require union or worker participation.”

“We’ve learned time and again that the way to make workplaces safer is to empower workers,” said Lou Kimmel, executive director of New Labor, a New Jersey-based workers’ center that assists temporary workers, immigrants and undocumented workers in organizing to improve their working conditions. “Workers know where the problems are and they know how to fix them. When we organize, workers can win their right to a safe workplace, so everyone can go home safely to their families.”

According to the American Staffing Association, 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.  

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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.  Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.