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Tillman & Associates, Attorneys at Law

Many industrial jobs put temporary employees in harm's way

A lot of factories rely on temporary workers to fill out their staff. Using temps to fill openings when more workers are needed is cheaper for the company and eliminates the need to lay off regular employees during slowdowns. Temp workers, for their part, can see if they can handle the work and use their temporary position as a toehold to vie for better-paying permanent jobs when they become available.

Unfortunately, too many of those temporary workers may be put at unnecessary risk of harm because they're poorly trained to handle the dangers of the jobs they get assigned.

A recent tragedy in an Alabama factory threw a light on the conditions that many experts say are the norm in U.S. factories: under-trained temporary employees are put into high-pressure situations that lead them to risk their lives in order to keep the assembly line moving.

In this case, a 20-year-old temporary employee, working long hours in an auto parts plant, was killed when she attempted to fix a robot she was overseeing. The machine abruptly restarted, crushing her. An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that her death was preventable.

In the end, the company was fined $2.5 million for 23 safety violations, most of them "willful," which generally means that the employer acted either in knowing disregard of safety rules or simply didn't care about the safety of employees. In the young woman's death, for example, the factory failed to put in place the proper controls that would prevent the robotic machinery from starting up again while employees were servicing it.

Under the law, both the host and temporary employers are supposed to have joint responsibility for their employees' health and safety. However, OSHA has openly expressed concerns that temp workers are placed in jobs that are highly hazardous without adequate safety training. The agency also believes that some employers use temp employees to try to get around safety compliance obligations. Many temporary employees may be too afraid to complain for fear of being dismissed in retaliation.

If you were injured while working a factory job through a staffing agency, you may need legal help to pursue full compensation for your injuries. Consider talking to an attorney who handles industrial workers' accidents about your case.

Source: The LaFayette Sun, "Alabama Tragedy Shines Light On Dangerous Factory Conditions," Feb. 13, 2017

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