Keeping Temporary Workers Safe

Before Lawrence Daquan “Day” Davis, 21, could take his first break during his first day on the job at a Bacardi bottling plant in Jacksonville, Florida, he was crushed to death by a palletizer machine. It was August, 2012 and this was Davis’ first real job. But he was a temporary worker for Bacardi and had been hired by a temporary staffing agency.

Within 15 minutes of Davis’ arrival at the plant, after being shown a short safety video, he was walking around heavy, unfamiliar equipment. A subsequent investigation determined that he had not had sufficient or appropriate training. As his sister, Antonia Washington, later viewed a surveillance tape of him near the fatal machine, she observed, “He didn’t know what was going on. You can tell he was confused…”

According to the film, temporary or temp work employed about 14 million people and generated about $109 billion in annual revenue in 2013. The often tragic consequences for families and the far-reaching implications for the American economy of temp work are examined in a new documentary, “A Day’s Work,” for which Dave DeSario is the executive producer.

At a recent screening of the film at the Public Welfare Foundation, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health recalled his initial sentiments about Davis’ tragedy.

“A worker’s first day at work shouldn’t be his last day on earth,” he said in February, 2013, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) first cited Bacardi with a dozen safety violations in the case.

Dr. Michaels explained at the screening that temp workers are at greater risk for injuries and death. He also listed some steps OSHA has taken, including its Temporary Worker Initiative, to beef up the agency’s oversight of the temporary staffing industry, as well as opening a dialogue with the American Staffing Association.

During a post-screening discussion, Mary Vogel, executive director of Public Welfare Foundation grantee National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), noted that some states, such as Massachusetts, have passed laws to give temp workers more information about the work they are undertaking. Such actions were praised by DeSario, whose own experience as a temp worker helped inform the film. But he also noted that “there’s still a long way to go,”

To see a trailer of the film, click here.


The Public Welfare Foundation supports efforts to advance justice and opportunity for people in need. These efforts honor the Foundation’s core values of racial equity, economic well-being, and fundamental fairness for all. The Foundation looks for strategic points where its funds can make a significant difference and improve lives through policy and system reform that results in transformative change. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter or on Facebook.

Stay Informed with our eNewsletter