Temporary staff: What are employers’ Health & Safety responsibilities?

As an employer, you’re not just responsible for the Health & Safety of your full-time employees. You’re also responsible for those working for you on a temporary basis – whether they’re extra help you’ve pulled in directly over the busy Christmas period, volunteers, or those hired from an employment agency for a short period of time.

Failing to properly consider your Health & Safety responsibilities for temporary staff could be costly. In May this year, a recycling company was fined £600,000 after a temporary worker was crushed to death by a forklift he was driving. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the temporary worker hadn’t been properly trained, monitored, and supervised.

So, with this in mind, are you sure of your Health & Safety responsibilities when it comes to temporary employees and workers? If not, we’re here to help.

First things first, it’s important to know the difference between temporary employees and temporary workers.


The difference between temporary employees, volunteers, agency workers and temporary workers

Temporary employees

You might recruit workers for short periods of time without using a third-party agency – like taking on additional retail staff over the Christmas period or taking on extra administrative staff to handle short-term increases in work. Once you’ve entered into a contractual agreement with them, those people would be classed as temporary employees.


Where a person carries out the work of an employee even on a temporary unpaid basis, they should be treated the same as a temporary employee. However, you may also need to consider things such as liability insurance, additional checks to ensure they are fit for the task, and any additional supervision and monitoring. Always contact us if you’re unsure.

Agency workers

An agency worker is normally an individual who is supplied by an employment agency to work for you (the business/end user).

If the employment agency is a recruitment agency and the individual enters a contractual agreement with you, the individual becomes your employee.

Alternatively, if an employment business supplies you a worker for a short period of time who remains under a contractual relationship with them, then you should treat them as a temporary worker and follow the Health & Safety guidance for temporary workers (which we’ll outline below).

Temporary workers

There’s no one set definition of a temporary worker as it’s used to describe a wide range of arrangements, but it generally means someone who has a contractual agreement with another employment business or agency and completes work for you for a period of time.

For a complete understanding of what a temporary worker is, visit the HSE’s website here or check out our free guide below.

Defining employment status: Understanding employment rights

An overview of the different employment status in Employment Law, how that determines employment rights and an overview of an employer's responsibilities.

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When it comes to temporary workers, Health & Safety guidance is slightly different from full-time or temporary employees.


What are your legal Health & Safety responsibilities for temporary employees?

Once a person enters into a direct contractual agreement with you, they become your employee – even if it is just for a temporary or fixed period. That makes you their employer and responsible for their Health & Safety in the same way as for all your other employees.

When it comes to volunteers, you may need to consider whether bringing them into your workplace can conflict with other duties of care – for instance, safeguarding requirements for children and young people.

For a quick understanding of the kind of things you need to be aware of when it comes to the Health & Safety of your employees, check out our quick checklist below.

Health & Safety checklist

Your free Health & Safety checklist to make sure your business is ready to be inspected - especially your devices and equipment.

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What are your legal Health & Safety responsibilities with temporary workers?

Who is responsible for their Health & Safety?

This is when things get a little bit more complex. In most cases with temporary workers, the business they have a contract with will be classed as their employer, as they ultimately have the control over their services.

However, the day-to-day responsibility for Health & Safety during the assignment is yours. As you’ll be directing their activities and are responsible for the premises where the work takes place, you must ensure their safety like you do with your employees.

Despite this, the employment agency and/or the employment business must still take reasonable steps before the work starts to identify any known Health & Safety risks and confirm that you’ve taken steps to prevent or control these. They’ll need to get the following information from you:

  • what the worker will be required to do and any Health & Safety risks, including what steps you’ve taken to prevent or control such risks;
  • what experience, training and qualifications are necessary for the job.

The importance of communication

Cooperation and communication between all those involved in using and supplying temporary workers is key to protecting their Health & Safety – this includes the employment business/agency, the worker, and yourself.

This isn’t just at the beginning, either – you’ve got to keep communicating throughout so that responsibilities are clear, and no one is putting themselves in danger or at risk of prosecution. You must agree roles and responsibilities and continually revisit them, rather than assuming the other side will handle everything.

This will mean working together to ensure you:

  • provide the temporary worker with information on any risks before the work starts, including the control measures in place and any health surveillance required;
  • make workers aware of and check they have the necessary occupational qualifications or skills required to do the job safely before they start work;
  • deliver good and sufficient information, instruction and training so temporary workers can work safely. Health & Safety training should take place during working hours and at no cost to the temporary worker, making sure they understand it;
  • provide protective equipment, at no cost to the temporary worker, agreeing arrangements for supplying and maintaining it;
  • ensure temporary workers know how to raise any Health & Safety concerns in the workplace.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Employees can’t be charged for provision of protective equipment required to do the job. This includes agency workers if they are legally regarded as your employees.  For temporary workers, in many cases the employment agency would be the employer, so is responsible for checking any necessary protective equipment is provided.

Accident reporting

Where a worker is not an employee, the duty to report an incident under RIDDOR is still on you, as you’re the person in charge of the premises – if you’re unsure or require more information, please visit the HSE’s website here.


How Citation can help

Staying on top of your Health & Safety responsibilities can be tough. When temporary workers and temporary employees are involved, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry, to avoid costly prosecutions. That’s why you should speak to an expert and make sure you’re doing everything by the book.

We’re here to help. Our Health & Safety experts can provide you with all the advice, training, policies, and other support you need to stay completely compliant. We take the stress out of Health & Safety, so you can focus on what you do best.

Simply call 0345 844 1111 to find out more, or, if you’re already a Citation client, please call our 24/7 advice line on 0345 844 4848 to speak to an expert.

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