A symposium on the health effects of temporary employment on workers has been held by Deakin University, finding that those on temporary or labour hire roles were more vulnerable to poor OHS standards than their full time counterparts.


Work safety expert and symposium organiser, Deakin University Senior Lecturer Dr Elsa Underhill who presented at the symposium said occupational health and safety for people working in temporary or labour hire roles was a national concern.


"Labour hire workers are particularly vulnerable to poorer OHS outcomes," she said.


Dr Underhill found that insecure employment puts people at a greater risk of injury.


"The reasons for this can include the need to continue working with injuries, more intense work tasks or indeed more hazardous tasks; poor matching of the person's skills to the job involved, inadequate training, complex communication systems and a culture of non-compliance across the sector."


Dr Underhill and her co-presenter Professor Michael Quinlan from the University of New South Wales reported on a study of labour hire employers and hosts in Queensland, and outlined ways in which compliance with regulatory requirements in the labour sector can be improved.


"Larger labour hire companies had a better record regarding OHS because they had a more strategic approaching to placing workers," she said.


"For instance they engaged in advanced planning, avoided high risk placements and those on short notice, and employed qualified staff who conducted appropriate risk assessments prior to placements.


"Smaller labour hire companies had more diverse approaches. On the one hand, smaller niche operators demonstrated that it was possible for smaller agencies to place labour hire workers safely when the agency had developed on-going relationships with the host and with their own employees.


"On the other hand, many labour hire agencies and hosts pointed to the detrimental role of small agencies with little knowledge of or interest in OHS.


"These agencies undercut the more responsible agencies, not least because of the lack of investment in time and resources to provide safe placement processes (such as training and risk assessments)."


Other presentations at the symposium included a presentation from Tessa Keegel from the University of Melbourne which examined whether precariously employed workers are less likely to participate in occupational health and safety.


"This Australian study demonstrates that precarious employment undermines the legislative intent of worker participation policy because neither the structural nor direct pathways are successful for enabling precariously employed workers to engage in OHS worker participation," Dr Underhill said.