Safety should always be permanent in workplaces, even those with temporary or contract workers.

While temps might not be part of your regular payroll, they are not less human than your staff, and safety can be every bit as important (and should be) for everyone on a job site, regardless of a worker’s employment status.

[Image courtesy of The Natural Step Canada from Flickr via a Creative Commons license]

[Image courtesy of The Natural Step Canada from Flickr via a Creative Commons license]

Unfortunately, it still is too regular an occurrence to hear stories about temporary or contract workers getting killed or seriously injured on job sites. As there are plenty of reasons for why this happens – and we have before covered some of these reasons in the past – there should still be some consideration that no matter what reason contributes to such an incident, we all need to take steps to have a permanent safety program in place for all workers, not just those on our payroll.

Often, though, companies will pay so much attention to their regular workers that often safety programs and procedures may be written and executed in the jargon of the worksite, which full-time workers will understand but perhaps temp workers may not.

Robert Brooks wrote in the November 2015 issue of Professional Safety magazine about the need to create a customized safety program that takes into account your temporary and contract workers, especially if your woksites often have these workers.  The most important part of any safety program is communication, and this involves making sure that the program and procedures are presented in a way that can be understood by everyone on the job site, whether there are language, experience, physical, or mental barriers.

Brooks presented in his article a four-step plan to create a safety program that has universal understanding and will keep everyone safe:

  1. Plan, not hope. Safety involves preparation, and this can extend to temporary workers. The site foreman and/or company owner should have a full safety plan for temp workers that includes information about the work environment, high-risk tasks and new tasks and their correlated risks, as well as information regarding safety equipment. This needs to be laid out as plainly and clearly as possible to mitigate confusion, and not only does the C-suite have to believe in this, but they have to ensure that middle-management and direct supervisors are on board. Without ful commitment throughout the organization to show interest in the safety of temp workers, the temp workers will be at risk no matter how good the plan seems to be. A plan needs passion in order to work.
  2. Manage the Work Environment. You can do this by having in place what is called an environmental health and safety (EHS) management program. Some of the areas to be covered here include how subcontractors will be managed, the worker evaluation process, how incident investigations are conducted and the extent of safety training and information about the staffing of safety officers on a worksite.
  3. Analyze in Detail. Every project has many jobs, tasks and moving parts in order to be completed. While safety procedures should always be discussed and understood before the broader project starts, it might also be useful to analyze and audit each task or job within the project before that task is begun, to make sure that the workers who are assigned to that specific task understand their safety procedures and expectations within the broader safety program parameters. More specific risks can be communicated at each step.
  4. Do the Internal Work. This is where the company works behind the scenes in developing a system and process for reporting, classifying and managing incident and injury cases. This may include providing access to workers compensation or operation resources for workers, with the blessing of the high executives who understand the bottom line with a safe and healthy workforce.

If you are in an industry that uses a lot of temporary or contract labor, stepping back and re-assessing and re-designing your safety procedures to meet the needs of an “outside” workforce can go a long way toward ensuring that these temporary and contract workers can feel safe and do their work safely. And the safer they are, the better the company is in the long run.