While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many rules in place to help employers reduce recognized hazards in their workplaces, the construction industry is particularly complicated. At any worksite, you may find multiple employers—from owners to general contractors to subcontractors—working simultaneously. In such a situation, it’s common for the actions of one company’s employees to affect the safety of the others.
For this reason, OSHA created the Multi-Employer Worksite Policy. It allows the issuance of citations to employers who endanger other contractors’ employees as well as those who expose their own workers to hazardous conditions.
Four Categories of Employers
According to OSHA, multi-employer worksites may contain employers from four categories.
- The controlling employer—in many cases, the acting general contractor—has the authority to correct hazardous jobsite conditions. As such, they are responsible for the safety of all workers, regardless of their actual employer.
- The creating employer is the employer whose activities have created a hazardous condition. The creating employer may be the general contractor, another contractor or a subcontractor.
- The correcting employer is the employer responsible for correcting the hazardous condition. This includes the creating employer and the general contractor, in many cases.
- The exposing employer is any employer whose workers were exposed to the hazardous condition. This may include every employer on the worksite, depending on the severity and nature of the hazard.
It’s not unusual for OHSA to issue a hazardous condition citation to every contractor and subcontractor on a multi-employer worksite, despite only one employer creating the hazard and union jurisdictional rules prohibiting members of one craft from correcting the hazards created by another.
Enhancing Worksite Safety as a General Contractor
While it’s important that each employer on a multi-employer worksite understands its role and responsibilities in eliminating safety hazards, the primary employer, general contractor or controlling employer can take additional steps to limit the likelihood of accidents, injuries and OSHA citations.
- Start with safety planning. Take the time to formally identify site-specific hazards, outline necessary safety precautions, and assign responsibilities to worksite employers. While you should always do this before starting a new project, you should also make updates before each new phase.
- Put it in writing. Include the worksite safety requirements you’ve outlined in every contractor and subcontractor contract.
- Review contractor/subcontractor safety records. When selecting contractors and subcontractors for a job, review their past OSHA citations, accidents and injuries, and safety practices. Never hire an employer with a poor safety history.
- Hold regular meetings. Whenever you begin a phase or bring in new contractors or subcontractors, hold a mandatory safety meeting in which you discuss the worksite specific safety plan and expectations for maintaining safe work conditions.
For best results, establish a clear chain of communication on worksite safety issues. If all contractors and subcontractors understand how to notify the appropriate party when they discover a hazard, it will be easier to deal with it properly and promptly, reducing the chance for accident or injury to any employers’ workers.