Subcontractors and Safety Liability

A recent decision in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in has ruled that general contractors can be held responsible for subcontractors that create OSHA violations. This particular case involves whether or not subcontractors were exposed to cave-in hazards and how liable the parent employer should be. As with most court cases with wide-sweeping implications, the decision is subject to appeal.

The safety violations occurred during the construction of a new library in the city of Austin, TX and could have long-reaching impact for the construction industry. The Circuit court ruled that the company Hensel Phelps could be held responsible for safety on the multi-employer site as a ‚Äúcontrolling employer.”

In the past, general contractors could be held not liable for offenses from a separate company, but this new ruling extends the obligations to the controlling employer. Further rulings will likely be held on a state-by-state basis, but OSHA is clearly moving the tide to ensure that more onus is laid on the shoulders of general contractors.

For some general contractors, this may mean the addition of safety measures and vetting of employees, but much like the practice of hiring temporary workers for specific projects, OSHA and the legal system is emphasizing that hiring subcontractors does notexempt the employer from the responsibility of safety training equal to that of permanent employees.

Whether permeant employee, subcontractor, or temporary, keeping worksites safe is the bottom line. For addition construction safety information and up-to date legal obligations, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.





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