Labour hire agencies

Labour hire agencies have legal responsibilities to keep their employees safe when they are placed with a host. Understand your occupational health and safety duties as a labour hire agency.

Date last updated

Monday 03 Feb 2020

Industries and topics
  • Labour hire

On this page

  • What is a labour hire agency and a host
  • Joint responsibilities
  • What are labour hire agencies’ OHS responsibilities
  • OHS representation
  • Employee safety is your responsibility

What is a labour hire agency and a host

Labour hire agencies supply employees to other businesses on a fee or contract basis. They can also be known as temping, contracting, on-hire or labour supply agencies. Group training companies who provide apprentices and trainees to hosts are another type of labour hire agency. When they pay the employee, by law the labour hire agency has the duties of an employer under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act).

The host is the business/organisation that labour hire employees are placed with. The host is the client of the labour hire agency.

Joint responsibilities

Labour hire providers and hosts are both responsible for the safety of labour hire employees under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act). No contract can exclude the host or labour hire agency from fulfilling their legal obligations to provide a safe place of work.

Both the labour hire agency and host have responsibilities for training, assessing risks and monitoring the workplace. They must also ensure the employee is capable and provided with everything they need to do the job safely, for example, knowledge, qualifications, personal protective equipment.

What are the labour hire agencies' OHS responsibilities

Labour hire agencies need to establish whether the workplace is safe, so far as it is reasonably practicable, before sending an employee. If it's not safe, you should not send anyone to work there.

You must continue monitoring the employee's safety throughout their placement with the host employer and consult with them on OHS matters relevant to their job.

Prior to initial placement with a host, you should do the following:

  1. Assess the workplace
    Visit the workplace prior to sending an employee out and gather information about:
    • the host employer’s operations, any OHS risks or hazards, its OHS performance and approach to managing safety in the workplace.
    • the hazards relevant to tasks the employee will be asked to carry out.  This might include information about the plant or equipment they will operate, or materials and substances they may be exposed to.
    • the control measures in place to eliminate or minimise risks and how suitable they are. If they are not effective, you can try to negotiate with the host to improve these controls.
    • the arrangements for supervision and effective consultation with employees.

OHS representation

Labour hire agencies may have a health and safety representative (HSR) who can raise health and safety issues on behalf of employees. It is possible an HSR from both your agency and the host can represent employees.

If there is no HSR at your agency, employees can ask you to negotiate with your employees to establish designated work groups (DWG) so that HSRs can be elected. You must do everything reasonable to ensure negotiations start within 14 days after the request

The host may have an agreement in place with their staff that allows their HSR to represent labour hire employees. If not, employees can approach either the responsible manager or an HSR at the host to ask whether such an agreement could be negotiated.

Employee safety is your responsibility

Performing the necessary workplace checks may seem like hard work but a look at the latest prosecutions provides good incentives to prioritise employees’ health and safety.

Go to Prosecution result summaries and select: Category > 'Labour hire'.