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    Employing temporary agency workers – who is responsible for their health and safe-ty?

    Good news from the
    construction industry this week, as the number of fatal accidents hit record
    lows last year.

    According to figures
    from the Health and Safety Executive, there were 20% fewer deaths in the construction industry
    from April 2018 — March 2019, compared with the same period the year before.

    Nevertheless,
    construction remains the second worst sector in which to work in the UK in
    terms of workplace injuries (2,620 per 100,000 workers), according to the
    latest 2017/18 statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

    With more than 1.3 million temporary agency workers in the UK
    considered “vulnerable workers” by the HSE, including around 6.8% placed in the Construction sector by
    recruitment agencies, being clear about who is responsible for their health and
    safety on the workplace is crucial for construction business owners. 

    Who
    is employing the agency workers?

    The temporary agency
    workers are employed and paid by the temporary recruitment agencies that place
    them into temporary work assignments.

    Day-to-day however,
    the temporary agency workers work under the supervision of the hiring company,
    not the agency.

    Who
    is responsible for their health and safety?

    The responsibility
    for the health and safety of agency workers is shared between the hirer (the
    company hiring the temporary worker), the recruitment agency and the workers
    themselves, according to the Health and Safety legislation in place and the UK law regulating recruitment agencies in the UK.

    Prior
    to employing the temporary worker

    It is the
    responsibility of the hirer to clarify what training, qualification, experience
    and affiliations to specific professional bodies are required for the role. The
    construction company looking to recruit a temporary member of staff generally
    shares these requirements in writing, via a job description, or at times,
    verbally, over the phone, if they’re on a construction site for example. The
    hirer is also required to communicate to the recruitment agency the known risks
    to health or safety in the workplace and the steps they’re taking to reduce
    those.

    It is the
    responsibility of the recruitment agency to ensure that the job-seekers they’re
    presenting to the hirers meet these requirements. The recruitment agencies are
    responsible for checking the candidates’ ID papers and qualification documents,
    ensuring they’re not falsified. They generally meet the job-seekers in person
    to confirm their identify and proceed to an interview. Prior to submitting the
    candidates’ profiles to the hirer, the agency needs to share the specific
    health and safety requirements of the role, as described by the hirer, and to
    ensure that that job-seekers can meet those (e.g., having a CSCS card or
    followed an IPAF training to work at height).

    Once
    the temporary worker has started the temporary assignment

    Once again, the
    responsibility is shared.

    However, it is the
    hirer who has the day-to-day responsibility for the health and safety of the
    temp worker during their assignment, as they have the best knowledge of the
    workplace and its risks, and as they directly manage the activity of the
    temporary worker on site (which include the induction period and any specific
    training required for the role). The health and safety rules that apply to
    permanent employees also apply to temporary agency workers.

    While the main
    responsibility for health and safety is down to the hirer and the recruitment
    agency as the ultimate employer of the temporary worker, the worker has also a
    duty to take care of their own health and safety and that of other members of
    staff, in line with the health and safety law.

    If the recruitment
    agency becomes aware that the temporary worker is not suitable for the role
    anymore, by law, they need to inform the hirer and stop the temporary
    employment contract with the hirer immediately.

    If
    an accident happens on the workplace

    If an accident
    happens, it is the responsibility of the hirer, and more specifically, of the
    person in control of the premises where the accident happened, to make a RIDDOR
    report, which can be done online, and to then inform the recruitment
    agency.

    Health
    and Safety best practices

    Here are 3 health
    and safety best practices for hirers when it comes to hiring temporary agency
    workers:

    1. Perform
      regular risk assessments of the workplace and be able to communicate clearly
      the outcomes of these assessments to the recruitment agency and the temporary construction worker. 
    2. Clarify
      and communicate before the start of the assignment how the health and safety responsibilities
      are shared between the worker, the hirer and the recruitment agency. Ensure
      that the recruitment agency and hiring company are adequately insured.
    3. Provide
      adequate training and protective equipment to the temporary worker, especially
      if they have to operate dangerous machinery, equipment or materials. If English
      is not the mother tongue of the temporary worker, ensure that they have fully
      understood the workplace risks. 

    This article was written by Caroline Pegden,
    Director of TempaGoGo, an online aggregator of temporary recruitment agencies
    with a focus on Construction