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Temp workers should be guarded from noise and respiratory risks

New Jersey staffing agencies and host employers should be aware of two recent bulletins released by OSHA concerning the protection of temporary workers against noise exposure and respiratory hazards. These bulletins, which are part of the organization's Temporary Worker Initiative, provide various scenarios exploring what can happen if workers are not properly trained or protected.

The bulletins uphold what OSHA states in its Respiratory Protection Standard and Occupational Noise Standard. Under both standards, employers must assess the hazards of their workplaces and provide employees with the proper protective equipment -- namely, respirators and hearing protection. When such equipment is a requirement, neither the employer nor staffing firm can ask employees to pay for it or provide it themselves.

Employers are also required to implement and maintain engineering, administrative and work practice controls. Protection programs must be set up when protective equipment is a necessity. Furthermore, staffing agencies must be familiar with common hazards and be in regular communication with the employer and employees regarding them. The agencies must also inform workers of risks and take reasonable steps to reduce them.

Once noise exposure levels are determined, employers must ensure that their workers receive an audiogram within six months of being exposed to a time-weighted average of 85 decibels over an eight-hour period. This is for general industries; in construction, that level is 90 decibels.

Not all workplace accidents can be avoided, but employees can always file workers' compensation claims. The benefits paid out can cover medical expenses and a certain percentage of the income lost during the physical recovery. Victims could even opt for a settlement, paid out in a lump sum. They might want to hire a lawyer for the filing process; legal counsel can be especially helpful if the claim is denied.

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