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OSHA Can Cite Contractors for Hazardous Conditions on Multi-Employer Worksites, Appeals Court Rules

Late last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit joined seven other federal appellate courts in rejecting challenges to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy, and allowing OSHA to cite general contractors for hazardous conditions which affect other contractors’ workers and non-employees.

The decision focuses on OSHA’s multi-employer policy, which has been in place for decades and in its current form for close to 20 years. Under that policy, OSHA has the authority to cite more than one employer for the same OSHA violation on worksites where there are multiple employers. This is common in industries such as construction. The policy also outlines the level of oversight “controlling employers” owe non-employees.

That policy has been challenged for years, with the Fifth Circuit’s decision stemming from the recent case of Acosta v. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. In that case, the general contractor, as the controlling employer, was cited for a subcontractor’s failure to protect workers from cave-in hazards. After an Administrative Law Judge decided the general contractor couldn’t be held liable for subcontractor violations, OSHA (through the Department of Labor) appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which overturned the ALJ’s decision.

What the Decision Means

The ruling has important implications for general contractors and “controlling employers,” defined by OSHA as any entity with general supervisory authority on a worksite, including the authority to identify, address, and correct safety violations, and / or compel other contractors or employers to correct them.

Likely, the decision will expand controlling employers’ exposure to liability for OSHA citations for failing to address hazardous conditions that endanger workers, including subcontractors and non-employees, on a multi-employer worksite, even if those conditions don’t directly affect their own employees.

It may also be of importance in matters involving negligence, which could subject multiple contractors, and general contractors, to liability for damages suffered by workers, non-employees, or civilian passerby who suffer injuries as a result of unaddressed hazardous conditions.

The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C.: Protecting Your Rights After a Workplace Accident

Although every workplace accident case is unique, the recent decision may set a precedent and status quo that could very well prevail for years to come, and which may be used in various workplace accident cases involving victims who suffer serious injuries, illnesses, and other damages as a result of hazardous conditions and the failures of general contractors and sub-contractors.

Because multi-employer worksites and the challenges over OSHA’s policy can make for added complexities when it comes to seeking benefits through workers’ compensation or civil personal injury lawsuits, victims and their loved ones should turn to trusted and experienced attorneys to help them identify their available options for pursuing the compensation they need.

At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., our nationally recognized New York City attorneys have cultivated a reputation for representing injured victims, workers, and families in a range of complex cases, including those involving workplace and construction accidents, multi-employer worksites, fatal incidents, and negligent contractors and third parties. Our goals in these cases center on exploring the various outlets of compensation available to our clients – be it a workers’ comp claim or civil suit against liable parties. In every case, we fight aggressively for the recoveries our clients deserve.

If you have questions about any type of accident or injury involving a worksite in New York City or the state of New York, our legal team is available to discuss them personally with you during a free and confidential case review. Call our firm at (212) 577-9325 or complete an online case evaluation form to get started.


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