When building large scale projects, worksites often have many layers of contractors, subcontractors and day laborers to complete the job. With so many people involved it can be a challenge to determine liability when a worker is injured.
Determining employer status
OSHA's multi-employer worksite policy categorizes employers into four categories to determine the scope of their safety responsibilities. Once employers are categorized, OSHA then defines the reasonable care the employers need to take to ensure the safety of their employees. A contractor needs to understand what category they are designated as and then meet the safety duties for that role. It is important to note that an employer can be designated to more than one category depending on their role on the worksite.
- Controlling employer: A controlling employer has supervisory authority over the worksite and the power and ability to correct safety and health violations. They are responsible for preventing and detecting worksite violations. A controlling employer should create and implement a site specific safety program and conduct frequent inspections of subcontractor worksites. They do not need to perform the corrections themselves; they can require others to correct the hazard.
- Creating employer: A creating employer is someone whose team caused a hazardous condition that violates an OSHA safety standard. A creating employer can be held liable even if only employees of another employer are exposed to the hazardous condition. The creating employer must correct the hazard. If it cannot be immediately corrected, the creating employer should communicate the problem and take steps to prevent employees from coming into contact with the hazardous condition until it is corrected.
- Exposing employer: An exposing employer is an employer whose own employees are exposed to a hazard. An exposing employer can be in violation even if their employees did not cause the problem, although if they did then the employer would also be classified as a creating employer. The exposing employer is responsible for protecting their employees from the hazard and must work to have the hazard corrected.
- Correcting employer: A correcting employer is given oversight and authority by an exposing employer on the same worksite and responsible for correcting a hazard. Correcting employers must take reasonable care measures to detect violations and if a violation is discovered they must correct the hazard. A correcting employer needs to provide an effective system for efficient hazard repairs. If the hazard cannot be immediately corrected the employer must communicate the problem and keep employees away from the problem until it is fixed.
Negligent employers can be held responsible for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering damages. In order to prevent worksite injuries, employers should focus on safety and regularly access potential hazards. Worksite safety starts before actual labor commences and most safety hazards can be avoided by thorough project pre-planning.