For more than two years, Covid-19 has consumed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s operations. However, as society continues to revert to a pre-pandemic sense of normalcy, so has the agency. This means seeing more inspections and more citations issued in the near future across more industries — including the staffing industry — due to firms’ joint employer status over temporary workers.

Funding. At the May 17 House Subcommittee hearing to establish agency funding for fiscal year 2023, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh gave a quick and definitive answer when asked which subagency would receive priority funding going forward: “OSHA.”

While OSHA’s budget saw a 3% increase from 2021 to 2022, lawmakers will likely place even more emphasis on workplace safety in 2023. During 2021, the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health’s leadership criticized OSHA for its lack of consistent enforcement of existing safety laws. The Biden administration has, at least in part, attributed this issue to staffing shortages — at the end of fiscal year 2021, the agency had an all-time low of 750 inspectors. Therefore, employers should expect to see a dramatic increase in the number of OSHA safety inspectors.

Inspection tracker. Inspections have already been increasing. Our law firm developed a resource — the OSHA Inspections Tracker — that staffing companies can use to better understand the scope of the situation. It provides an up-to-the-minute count of OSHA workplace safety inspections by state and industry and other interesting data.

For example, there were over 38,652 inspections launched in 2022 as of July 30, with an average of more than 5,500 per month. The states with the highest number of inspections through that date were California, 3,931; Washington, 2,789; Texas, 2,482; Michigan, 2,225; and New York, 1,824.

Meanwhile, the states with the biggest month-over-month increases in monthly inspections as of July 30 were Idaho, 209%; Oklahoma, 65%; Rhode Island, 60%; New Hampshire, 50%; and Nebraska, 40.9%.

The industries hit hardest by OSHA inspections as of July 30 were construction, with 41.8% of all inspections; manufacturing, 18.1%; healthcare, 6.6%; retail, 4.8%; and automotive, support, waste management and remediation, 4.7%.

Although the construction and manufacturing industries are clearly most at risk for OSHA inspections, a rise in healthcare, retail and waste management industry inspections demonstrates how OSHA’s reach continues to expand.

Temporary worker initiative. Staffing firms must take particular note of these increased inspections due to OSHA’s use of its Temporary Worker Initiative to assess whether staffing firms should be cited for violations at host employer worksites. OSHA’s position is that staffing firms need not become experts on all potential hazards at the host’s workplace, but they have a duty to determine what hazards are present at the worksite. OSHA is also focused on ensuring that personal protective equipment is provided to temporary workers and that temporary workers have required training.

Be prepared. Staffing firms should take steps to ensure they and their clients remain ready for OSHA inspections and abide by all relevant safety regulations. Apart from ensuring that client workplaces are operating in a safe and responsible manner, staffing agencies and their clients should also take care to utilize staffing service agreements that clearly delineate the responsibilities of the parties when it comes to safety compliance.

It is also important to document reporting procedures in the event of an accident, either in the service agreement or in separate documentation.

The procedure for reporting hospitalizations and deaths should be addressed specifically to comply with state and local reporting laws. The staffing agency may also wish to provide guidance to customers regarding the process to follow when OSHA investigates accidents or areas involving temporary workers.

Staffing firms need to prepare for the inevitable increase in OSHA inspections and the accompanying exposure they could face as a result. But if they are diligent in tracking OSHA’s inspection trends and implementing workplace safety measures, staffing agencies should have no trouble weathering the increased scrutiny they might face.