Multi-employer worksites: Clarify expectations & protect your firm

by on August 16, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

What do you do when a subcontractor ignores your safety instructions?

The answer is important. As you know, OSHA can fine your company for a subcontractor’s safety violations. Here’s a cautionary example:

No fall protection
A home-renovation company hired a roofing subcontractor. OSHA received a complaint and the Compliance Officer (CO) headed out for a visit.

Once there, the CO found three of the subcontractor’s roofers working close to the edge of a two-story residential roof. They and four other roofers were not wearing any fall protection, nor were there any guardrails or warning lines.

The roofers also accessed the roof using a ladder that just reached the edge of the roof. Ladder siderails need to extend at least three feet above the upper landing surface.

The CO spoke to the company’s field supervisor. He admitted essentially, yes, he had controlling authority, and no, they were not wearing fall protection. He had told them earlier that day during a previous visit to use a taller ladder. And his company had used the roofing subcontractor on a previous job a few days earlier – and the roofer didn’t use fall protection on that job, either.

Despite the supervisor’s warnings, the roofers ignored him. It cost his company a $750 fine for a serious citation. It wasn’t worse because of a small-business discount. But any further citations will be “repeat,” and the fines will escalate.

Bottom line: If you have control, your company will be accountable for others’ safety violations. Here are some steps to take to make sure that doesn’t happen:

    1. Make safety expectations clear before the sub shows up. This sets the tone for the job and makes everyone’s role clear. This is true whether or not you are the controlling authority on the job.
    2. Even if you don’t have control, watch carefully. You may not be able to stop work to demand safety corrections, but you can report them to the sub’s owner (or your safety director) and get action taken. That can prevent accidents.
    3. If you do have control, have a safety plan for that work. OSHA demands a safety plan from each employer. Ask to see the sub’s safety plan, and have your own. That can clear up up any misunderstandings upfront. Coordinate with your safety director, if necessary, to create your plan.
    4. Check that safety equipment is in place. If the supervisor here had coordinated the safety plan, everyone’s expectations would have been the same. Once the sub showed up with no fall-arrest systems, the supervisor could have told them to come back when they had some – as per the plan.
    5. Be prepared to use your stop-work authority (if you have it). It’s easy to talk with the sub’s foreperson and request corrections. But you need to be prepared to shut down the job. The supervisor here should have demanded the ladder be replaced or threatened to stop work. When he was ignored, he needed to follow through. That will usually clarify expectations about safety.

Cite: Sec’y of Labor v. Weatherguard.

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