Don’t Get Cited for Another’s Contractors Actions

Construction work is a multifaceted employment with a variety of moving parts and people. Whether the construction is commercial or residential, the site often has multi-employers interacting with each other. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is aware of this fact and have created a system to hold each company accountable for their own employees. However, there are times a contractor can be cited for another contractor’s hazard. This post will make you aware of the multi-employer doctrine and how to protect your company from injuries and citations.

The basics of safety and health are to help workers avoid anything injuring or making them ill, known as a hazard, ensuring they remain safe and sound. On a construction site, there are many hazards appearing seamlessly out of nowhere. Each day on a project can bring a new hazard, due to the nature of the work. Often the hazards may not have existed just days prior to an exposure.

OSHA says in the Multi-Employer Doctrine, gives roles for each of the individuals on the construction site having a part to play in a worker being injured or to be made ill. The roles are as follows:

  1. The Creating Employer
  2. The Exposing Employer
  3. The Correcting Employer
  4. The Controlling Employer

The Creating Employer

The employer who creates an unmitigated hazard on a construction site violating an OSHA standard is the creating employer. This person is creates a condition injuring any workers on a construction site will receive a citation. In fact, the creating employer can be cited even if their own employees are not exposed to the hazard.

Example: Company A removes a guardrail where the height is 8 feet from the ground. In the OSHA 1926 Subpart M standard, any worker on a landing or elevated surface over 6 feet must be protected from a fall. If any worker is exposed to this hazard, then OSHA can cite both the creating employer and the other employer whose worker is directly in danger of falling from the 8 foot height.

The Exposing Employer

The employer who has a worker exposed to a hazard is known as the exposing employer. Hazards can come in all shapes and forms, but when it is matched with worker exposure, then the employee can be injured. OSHA’s policy on citing exposing employers is as follows:

“If the violation was created by another employer, the exposing employer is citable if it (1) knew of the hazardous condition or failed to exercise reasonable diligence to discover the condition, and (2) failed to take steps consistent with its authority to protect is employees”.

The Correcting Employer

This is the employer who is on the worksite and has the responsibility for correcting the hazard. Usually, the employer is given the responsibility of installing and/or maintaining specific safety and health equipment or devices. If an exposing employer has the authority to correct a hazard than they must do so to avoid a citation.

The Controlling Employer

This is the company who has the overall responsibility for the safety and health of the worksite. Responsibility can be determined through a contract or by them having general supervisory authority over the worksite. The controlling employer will have the power to correct safety and health violations themselves or facilitate the correcting of a hazard.

Legitimate defense against a multi-employer citation

OSHA will cite employers who have workers exposed to a hazard unless all of the following applies:

“(1) ask the creating and/or controlling employer to correct the hazard;

(2) inform its employees of the hazard; and

(3) take reasonable alternative protective measures. In extreme circumstances (e.g., imminent danger situations), the exposing employer is citable for failing to remove its employees from the job to avoid the hazard.”

The multi-employer doctrine also states some employers can have multiple roles and responsibility on the construction site. When on a construction worksite, it is everyone’s responsibility to watch over their own safety and health. However, copiability for citations on OSHA violations can stretch to many employers on the same site regardless of who creates the hazard.

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