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Recruitment agencies are failing in health and safety says report


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today published its Survey of the Recruitment Agency industry. The main conclusion of this was that recruitment agencies in Great Britain are unclear as to what their health and safety responsibilities are towards workers registered with them. The HSE is concerned that this may mean that recruitment agency workers may not receive the same level of health and safety protection as other employers.

The research investigates the understanding of health and safety responsibilities in the recruitment agency industry and among employers. It consists of three stages;

  • a telephone survey of 1,000 agencies
  • a telephone survey of 1,000 host employers
  • and a survey of 500 agency workers

The key findings include:

  • about 75% of agencies use contracts whereby agency workers are employed by the agency, but 80% of agencies consider responsibility for an agency worker's health and
    safety is with the host employer (the employer who hires the
    worker from the agency)

  • agency workers tend to be young people, placed in lower
    skilled occupational areas, often in production and construction firms, and particularly in manufacturing

  • in practice, the majority of host employers
    • record and report accidents, ill-health, etc
    • carry out risk assessments
    • and ensure personal protective equipment is
      provided and maintained.

    The duty in each case is actually on the employer.

  • most recruitment agencies and host employers claim to
    exchange information on capabilities, training, health and
    safety features of the job, and special occupational
    qualifications and skills. However, generally, a poor level
    of awareness of health and safety legislation exists.
    Around half of all agencies do not have measures in place to
    ensure they are fulfilling their health and safety

  • it appears that agencies are not always informed of
    accidents, incidents, etc involving their worker whilst at a
    host employer.

Mel Draper, the head of HSE's Policy Division said:

'This research confirms that there is a lack of clarity among recruitment agencies and host employers about responsibilities for the health and safety of agency workers. We are concerned this may lead to some workers not receiving the same level of protection as others. Although there was evidence of good practice, it is disappointing that on the whole recruitment agencies believe responsibility for agency workers' health and safety is with the host employer. These results are informing the next stage of HSE's work which is looking at who has or should have responsibility for an agency worker's health and safety.'


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