Multi-employer work sites often create confusion about workplace safety regulations and responsibilities for accidents and injuries.
Understanding Multi-Employer Constructions Sites
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has regulations that govern workplace safety at multi-employer construction work sites. OSHA groups employers into four main categories: Controlling Employers, Creating Employers, Exposing Employers, and Correcting Employers. Each category outlines the safety responsibilities of each employer type for a construction project. Each employer type designates specific safety requirements for work activities, responsibility for workplace accidents, and preventing safety hazards for workers. Many construction sites involve various work-related tasks by architects, engineers, contractors, and project owners, so they are defined by OSHA as multi-employer work sites.
Multi-employer work sites are common within the construction industry where the workplace is owned by one company, but construction duties are performed by a variety of skilled workers. To prevent OSHA safety violations and fines, employers in multi-employer work sites must identify themselves as a specific type of employer and understand OSHA’s regulations that pertain to that category. Workplace activities can put an employer into a specific category, so there may be overlapping responsibilities for worker safety. If a worker is injured on killed on the job, an employer may become entangled in the safety responsibilities and duties of that incident.
OSHA can issue citations for safety violations to one or more employers at a multi-employer work site. Within the construction industry, a general contractor is often considered the Controlling Employer, because he/she oversees workers and various trades. If the general contractor requires workers or subcontractors to perform duties in a hazardous area, he/she may also be designated as an Exposing Employer and held responsible for worker safety and liable for worker injuries that occur in that area. OSHA holds Controlling Employers responsible for exercising a duty of “reasonable care” to detect and prevent workplace safety violations. Those regulations are based on the following:
- The scale of the project
- The type and speed of construction
- Types of construction hazards
- Frequency of inspections
- Skill level and professional trade knowledge of the contractor
On most construction work sites, the general contractor is designated as the Controlling Employer, so the general contractor, as well as subcontractors on the job, can be cited for safety violations on the work site.