The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has an ongoing safety research project for temporary workers. The goal of the project is to better understand the high frequency of their work injury incidents.


Work injury research project for temporary workers

L&I is working hard to better assess temporary employment injury risk factors. To achieve this goal, L&I is focusing its efforts on:

  1. Measuring the magnitude and incidence of workplace injury of temporary workers compared to standard workers in similar jobs;
  2. Interviewing recently temporary and standard workers with recent work injury to obtain relevant information and ideas for safety improvement;
  3. Interviewing temporary agency and business managers; and
  4. Developing education materials to industries and parties involved in temporary worker employment.

Interestingly, L&I learned that the temporary worker workforce has grown significantly since 1990. In fact, many more industries utilize temporary workers. With this increase, there is a similarly significant rise in the occurrence of workplace injuries amongst temporary workers. This includes particularly hazardous industries like construction and manufacturing.


Temporary worker workplace injury as major concern

L&I is not alone in its research. The United States Department of Labor – OSHA also studies workplace injury occurrences amongst temporary workers. OSHA is concerned that some employers may use temporary workers to avoid meeting safety compliance and protection obligations under the OSH Act. According to OSHA, temporary workers are put in a variety of jobs, including very hazardous ones. These temporary workers are more vulnerable to workplace injury. On top, employers often do not give them adequate safety and health training. Specifically, according to OSHA, both employers and temporary staffing agencies are responsible for these failures. Therefore, OSHA mandates that both employers and temporary staffing companies meet safety and health obligations for temporary employees.


Temporary worker protection in Washington State

The State of Washington recently took a big step to improve protections for temporary workers in our State. Based in part on L&I research and with legislative, business, and temporary staffing agency collaboration, the Governor recently signed SHB 1206. This new law was sponsored by former Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ) Director, Liz Berry.


The law goes into effect July 25, 2021 and creates new protections for temporary workers. Specifically, it mandates increased communication between temporary staffing agencies and employers regarding safety and training. It also mandates that employers provide safety training to temporary workers. In addition, it requires documentation and record keeping regarding safety inquiries and training. Finally, it forces employers to be transparent about hazards and safety training.


New historic legislation

Based upon my research, this new law affords more protections for temporary workers than in any other state. In fact, many are hopeful that this law will serve as a blueprint for other states to enact similar protections. Hopefully, the adoption of this law will dramatically reduce the occurrence of work injuries among temporary workers. Congratulations to representative Liz Berry, to the Temp Worker Justice organization, to L&I, and to the State of Washington for enacting this historic legislation. To quote Representative Berry:

All Washington workers deserve to be safe at work. This bill will literally save lives and limbs.