When Can Safety Contract Language Be Used Against You?

Kegler Brown Construction Newsletter

For years, contractors were encouraged to insert broad safety language in their subcontract so that they would have the contract muscle to enforce meaningful safety precautions on the jobsite and minimize the risk of jobsite accidents and OSHA citations.

However, a recent Court of Appeals decision has pointed out the risk associated with such language. A subcontractor sued a general contractor for the alleged increase in its worker’s compensation premiums associated with an injured employee of the subcontractor. While the contractor prevailed on a motion at the trial court level, the general contractor’s contractual authority to stop work and prevent accidents was cited by the Court of Appeals as giving the subcontractor a potential legal claim. A.H. Sturgill Roofing, Inc. v. Robert W. Setterlin & Sons Co., No. 06CA36, 2007 WL 1226042 (Ohio App., 4th Dist., April 23, 2007).

In view of this decision, contractors may want to rethink whether they want to assume express duties in the contract to ensure a safe workplace.