While risk of personal injury at the workplace varies throughout industries, an employee generally has the right to work in a safe physical environment. (OSHA.gov Right to Safe Workplace).
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides specific guidance for creating a safe work environment for employees. Some of the most important standards dictated by OSHA require employers to provide reliable protective gear for employees. (OSHA Protective Equipment). Employers should, among other things, provide safely designed protective equipment and train employees on:
- When it is necessary to use protective equipment
- What kind of equipment is required
- How to properly wear, adjust, and remove equipment
- The limitations of the equipment; and
- Proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of the equipment
The need to create a safe work environment is often heightened in “temporary” employment situations where an employee is hired through and paid by a staffing agency. The trend in using temporary labor is on the rise and is extremely prevalent in the South, where the number of such workers grew from 396,000 in 1990 to 897,000 in 2008. Temporary employees are often younger, less experienced with the demands of their assignment, and unfamiliar with their work environment. These factors increase the likelihood of serious personal injuries or accidental death.
Employers should always make safety a paramount concern. They should be particularly aware of dangers that may cause temporary and contract workers to suffer serious personal injury or wrongful death.