On April 15th, 2021, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced that new workplace safety regulations for temporary workers are coming later this summer. Governor Jay Inslee has signed SHB 1206, a law designed to help protect our state’s temporary workers.
In a “first-of-its-kind” law in the United States, Washington legislators have passed a bill that is designed to help ensure that temporary employees hired through a staffing agency are better informed about workplace hazards and receive proper safety training at any workplace.
Temporary employees deserve safe and fair conditions in the workplace. In this article, our Seattle workers’ compensation lawyers provide an overview of the new job safety regulations coming to Washington for temporary workers effective July of 2021.
The Problem: Temporary Workers Face Higher Job-Related Injury Risks
In recent years, an alarming number of new studies and reports have come out highlighting the disproportionate workplace safety risks faced by temporary employees. As Joel Sacks, the Director of Labor and Industries explained, “the research on this is startling. These temporary workers are getting hurt at a much higher rate than other workers in our state.” In fact, workers’ compensation rates for temporary workers are twice those of permanent workers.
The safety problem is not limited to Washington. Temporary workers all across the United States face heightened risks. In 2020, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a report finding that temporary workers were more than twice as likely to be involved in a serious job-related accident as were permanent employees.
Industries with High Levels of Temporary Workers
In Washington, many companies rely heavily on the contributions of temporary workers. They regularly work with outside staff agencies that supply temporary workers. The highest risk occupations are in agriculture, vehicle operations, construction, and machine operations. These industries can be more dangerous for workers if proper training and safety precautions are not met.
Workplace safety experts believe that temporary workers are more likely to be involved in workplace accidents for several reasons, including:
- Temporary employees are unfamiliar with their new work practices and surroundings;
- Temporary employees are often not fully informed of potential risks ahead of time; and
- Temporary employees often receive little or no workplace safety training.
In effect, the research suggests that the disproportionate risks faced by temporary workers could be reduced or even eliminated with proper information, tools, resources, and training.
A New Workplace Safety Law Will Take Effect on July 25, 2021
At the request of the Department of Labor & Industries, Washington legislators passed and Governor Jay Inslee signed into law. The bill focuses on reducing hazards and protecting temporary worker in our state. It ensures temporary agencies and employers have proper safety and training procedures in place and that temporary workers are well versed in those procedures. The legislation will officially take effect in Washington on July 25, 2021. Here are three key things to know about SHB 1206 and what it does to help protect the health and safety of temporary workers:
- Covered Employers Must Coordinate Safety and Training with Staffing Agencies: In reviewing the research, Washington lawmakers and Washington safety officials determined that a significant problem was lack of information sharing between employers and temporary staffing agencies. The new law is designed to address that problem directly. Covered employers should document any safety hazards and provide that information to staffing agencies. In turn, the staffing agencies must inform temporary workers.
- Better Safety Training for Temporary Workers: Information sharing is the first step in the process. It will help to ensure that temporary workers know exactly what they are getting into when they accept a position. SHB 1206 also puts new, heightened safety training requirements on employers and staffing agencies. Well-designed safety training can dramatically reduce the risk of accidents.
- Updated Training for New Positions with the Same Employer. If a temporary worker changes job tasks or work location, the employer must notify the staffing agency and employee and update training and safety equipment for the new position.
There are high hopes that this law could make a real difference for hardworking people in Washington. As Dave DeSario, the Director of the national not-for-profit organization Temp Worker Justice, noted Washington’s new temporary worker safety law is a “major achievement and provides a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow.” Some estimates suggest that the new law could reduce several hundred accidents involving temporary workers in Washington each year.
Temporary Employees are Entitled to Financial Benefits for Work-Related Injuries
All workers are legally entitled to safe conditions on the job and proper training, especially for hazardous work. Proper training has been lacking for temporary workers in the past as evidenced by their higher than usual injury rates. Companies and organizations must put in the resources to protect their temporary staff members. As explained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “staffing agencies and host employers are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment for temporary workers.”
Temporary workers, as well as more permanent workers, can report safety violations to the Department of Labor & Industries. For immediate safety issues, call 800-423-7233 or fill in a form and submit it to the Department. Anyone can do so anonymously.
Temporary workers do not have to go through the workers’ comp claims process alone. If you were injured as a temporary worker in Washington, our Seattle workers’ comp lawyers are here to help you navigate the claims process. Compensation may be available for all proper and necessary medical treatment, lost wages, and permanent disabilities/impairments.
Contact Our Seattle Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for Immediate Help
At The Walthew Law Firm, our Washington workers’ comp lawyers provide reliable, results-focused guidance and support to injured workers and their families. If you or your family member was hurt on the job as a temporary employee, we are ready and willing to get started on your case right away. Contact our firm today to set up your no cost, no obligation initial consultation. We represent injured workers throughout the entire region, including in King County, Pierce County, Thurston County, Kitsap County, Mason County, Snohomish County, and Skagit County.