General Contractors Still Potentially Responsible for Sub’s OSHA Violations

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of OSHA against a general contractor, finding the contractor liable for the unsafe practices of his subcontractors. Solis v. Summit Contractors, Inc. This long-awaited decision determined whether a contractor could end up on the hook for his subcontractors’ safety violations when the contractor did not create the hazard or subject his own employees to it.

The OSHA regulation being construed provides:

“Each employer shall protect the employment and places of employment of each of his employees engaged in construction work by complying with the appropriate standards prescribed …”

While the dissent accepted the general contractor’s argument that he should only be responsible when he subjects his own employees doing construction work to an unsafe condition, the majority in its decision said that so long as the contractor has employees on site, he has exposure for citations. This “multi-employer policy” exposes the contractor or construction manager to risk for hazards created by subcontractors, and means that contractors have a great incentive to monitor all safety aspects of any jobsite where they have supervisory personnel, even if no work is being self-performed.

This case also emphasizes the need to specifically address the issue of OSHA violations in any subcontract document.