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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

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