Must sub report safety hazard?

by on May 22, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

“How did this accident happen?” asked ABC Industries Safety Director Kirk Johnson.

“Well, the siding contractor removed a railing,” explained ABC supervisor Mark Shymanski. “And he didn’t put it back. That left a 10-foot fall hazard. The painting contractor came in and ignored the missing railing.”

“Did he tell you about it?” interrupted Kirk.

“No,” said Mark. “I found out about it afterward. Anyway, the painting contractor worked around the missing railing and got through the job without anyone getting hurt.”

“He just left it there?” asked Kirk. “Didn’t you spot it?”

“I’m afraid not,” said Mark. “These guys were in and out of our facility quickly. So then our employee, Bobby, went up there and fell off the edge.”

“Now he’s paralyzed,” said Kirk.

“I know. It’s terrible.”

Bobby got a workers comp settlement with ABC, then sued both the siding contractor and the painting contractor.

Did he win?

It was a split decision. The siding contractor, which created the hazard, settled with Bobby before the case went to court. But Bobby lost his case against the painting contractor.

Reason: The painting subcontractor wasn’t required under state law or the renovation contract to report safety hazards – unless the subcontractor itself created the safety hazard.

What this means to you
For supervisors who may have subcontractors in their work area, this case makes some key points:

  1. Subcontractors who work for your company can create safety hazards – traps that others can get caught up in, and that you may not know about.
  2. If you have multiple subcontractors, one sub can create a safety hazard that can expose another to injury. That, in turn, could create liability for your company if you’re responsible for site safety.
  3. Subcontractors, depending on your state and your firm’s contracts with them, may not be required to report safety hazards they see to your company.

Bottom line: Inspect subcontractor work frequently. Never assume subs will report safety hazards or fix those they leave behind. It’s also worthwhile to remind any subcontractors on your site to report safety hazards to you immediately – and not just to work around danger.

Cite: Siebert v. Bogart Siding, Inc., et al., No. 61769, Wash. App.

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