Did you know that if you work at a multi-employer job-site, OSHA can site multiple employers for the same regulatory violation? Did you know that if you are a general contractor, OSHA can site you for a subcontractor’s violation, even when you did not create it? The OSHA multi-employer citation policy presents risks to all contractors working at a job-site, including the general contractor and in some cases, even the owner of the site.
OSHA defines several categories of employers in a multi-employer job-site:
An employer can meet the definition for one or more these roles at any given time.
You are a creating employer if you are the employer that created the hazardous condition at the worksite. As a result, you are citable by OSHA even if only employees of other employers are exposed. That’s right, your employees don’t even have to be exposed for you to be liable, as long as someone else’s are, you are responsible as the creating employer.
You are an exposing employer if your employees are exposed to the hazard; You are citable by OSHA if you knew of the hazard or would have with reasonable diligence but you failed to take the steps necessary to protect your employees, even if you are not the creating employer. As an exposing employer, you must take action; if you know about a hazard but you are unable to correct it, you must ask the creating or controlling employer to correct the issue, inform your employees of the hazard, and take reasonable alternative protective measures.
You are a correcting employer if you are responsible for correcting the hazard. You are citable as a correcting employer if you did not exercise reasonable care in preventing and discovering violations and in correcting them, even if none of your own employees are exposed to that hazard.
You are the controlling employer if you have general supervisory authority, including the power to correct or require others to correct hazards by contract, or in practice. General contractors, those companies that act as general contractors and facility owners are all citable as controlling employers.
Controlling employers are responsible for exercising reasonable care to prevent and detect violations. Reasonable care is established by conducting periodic inspections, implementing an effective system to correct hazards and effectively enforcing regulations and safety rules.
Controlling employers are not necessarily required to inspect the jib-site as frequently as its subcontracted employers that work in those trades, but it must know enough and inspect frequently enough to properly manage the job-site.
Factors that influence how often a controlling employer should inspect include the project scale, the nature and pace of the work, and how much is known by the subcontractors. More frequent inspections would be warranted for an unknown or previously non-compliant subcontractor and vice versa if the opposite is true.
Regardless of your role at a job-site, you are expected to take action to identify and correct hazards. You are liable both for your own employees and for any employee that may be exposed to a hazard you created. Your liability increases if you also have corrective authority at the job-site.
To help solve the problem, you should:
- Always take reasonable care to prevent and correct hazards
- Perform regular job-site inspections that increase or decrease in frequency as job-site hazard-frequency and non-compliance increases and decreases
- Coordinate hazard identification and mitigation with other employers
- Verify that every person on the job-site has the proper training for their role – Ensure that all of your employees and all subcontractors, regardless of tier, are properly trained as required by OSHA and as necessary for technical proficiency and ask for documentation of this training to prove it
- Make contract terms clear – Develop contractual provisions that clearly spell out everyone’s role in the management of hazards at the job-site
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