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OSHA bulletins address noise and respiratory hazards

As part of its Temporary Worker Initiative, OSHA has released two bulletins on how host employers and staffing agencies are to protect temp workers from noise exposure and respiratory hazards. Both employees and employers in Florida should know that these bulletins reinforce what was said in OSHA's Occupational Noise Standard and Respiratory Protection Standard.

Host employers must measure noise exposure levels and determine if their employees need hearing protection. If they do, it must be provided at no charge to them, and a hearing protection program must be put in place. Employers are also required to provide audiograms for workers exposed to an eight-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels (for general industries) or 90 decibels (for construction). This is to be done in six months' time.

Respiratory hazards must be assessed during a thorough workplace inspection. Employers should provide the correct respirators; however, they could also divide some of their responsibilities with the staffing agency. Under both standards, business owners must implement and maintain engineering, administrative and work practice controls.

The staffing agency is required to have regular communications with both workers and employers. It should be familiar with established hazards and controls, informing workers of any new hazards that arise and taking reasonable steps to reduce these risks.

These standards can help ensure a safer workplace, but they will not prevent all accidents. If a lapse occurs, an employee can file for workers' compensation and be partly covered for their lost wages. The benefits could pay for past medical treatments and even for short- or long-term disability leave. To ensure a smooth filing process, victims are encouraged to hire a lawyer.

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