If you're a Pittsburgh contractor, you strive to limit liability at all costs. But thanks to a November ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, dodging liability will now be more challenging.
The New Orleans Appeals Court judge ruled on Nov. 26 that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can now cite general contractors for the safety violations of subcontractors on the job site regardless of whether the general contractor's employees were involved in the violations.
How did it come about?
The judge ruled only after a request from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta for the 5th Circuit to review one of the administrative court decisions of OSHA. The decision stated general contractors were only liable for safety threats to their own employees.
Last year in Denver, the state administrative judge for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Commission issued a ruling that a general contractor could not be cited for any safety hazards caused by one of the subcontractors on an Austin, Texas, construction project.
But the 5th Circuit found that more recent rulings rendered the administrative judge's decision "obsolete." The court also found that the general contractor was a "controlling employer" that could be held liable for safety hazards on the multiemployer construction site.
On the heels of the 5th Circuit's ruling, it behooves all general contractors to be as proactive as possible with on-the-job safety and to work to develop a culture of safety in the workplace.
If you face civil litigation or other legal consequences as a result of safety lapses on a job site, don't hesitate. You and your attorney must do all you can to limit your exposure to potential liability stemming from any claims.