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Workplace Safety

Keeping Temp Workers Safe on the Job

construction workers walking
construction workers walking
Lewis Smith headshot

Lewis Smith

Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council

Temporary employment takes a wide variety of forms: term, contract, seasonal, casual, and placement through a staffing company. It is common in construction, resource industries such as fishing and agriculture, public administration, personal services and community services. 

Canadians of all ages and all walks of life take temporary jobs — some by preference, and others because they cannot find permanent positions.

Temps tend to suffer more injuries than permanent employees, and those injuries tend to be more serious. According to a study conducted by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, temporary workers are up to two times more likely to suffer an on-the-job injury relative to their full-time counterparts.

Both the employer and the employee need to be on their guard for safety in temporary work situations.

Tips for employers

By law, Canadian employers must ensure that their workplaces are safe, train employees regarding any potential hazards, supply the necessary personal protective equipment and make sure workers know how to use them. These responsibilities apply to all workers, whether permanent or temporary.

Regardless of a worker’s qualifications, employers must never leave a new temp to work unsupervised before ensuring he or she can safely perform the required tasks. Job orientation and safety training are extremely important for temporary workers, yet temporary workers commonly report that these important considerations were never provided.

While injury claims for temporary workers will often see the costs ascribed to the worker’s temp agency, be sure you are aware of your province’s legislation. In the event of serious injury or fatality, you and your workplace may also be held liable. 

Tips for temporary employees

As a temporary employee, you have some protections under your province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act. As far as safety is concerned, these rights include but are not limited to the right to safety training, information on personal protective equipment and procedures, and notice of potential dangers you may encounter on the job.

It’s important that any injury be immediately reported to your supervisor and to your provincial workplace compensation board. Your employer may encourage you not to report an injury — if this happens, document the situation as much as you can and contact your local workers’ action centre.

In certain industries such as agriculture, logging and forestry, and construction, seasonal workers predominate. The rates of injury in those sectors are relatively high, due in large part to the nature of the work. With inexperienced seasonal workers, the risks increase. Again, both the employer and the worker must be aware of all hazards. Proper training, equipment and other safety measures are essential. 

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