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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