Construction and worksite safety is the single most important factor in preventing major accidents, and on large worksites, general safety obligations fall on the general contractor or the prime contractor. However, general contractors often fail to assume safety obligations such as holding weekly safety meetings or hiring a safety manager. In fact, many general contractors delegate safety obligations to subcontractors.
For example, a developer wants to build a strip mall and hires general contractor, Company A, for $10 million dollars. Company A turns around and hires 25 subcontractors who will perform different services. Company B may perform surveying services, Company C may perform excavating services, and so on.
When the general contractor, Company A, put in its bid of $10 million, it knew that after paying the subcontractors as well as the cost of building materials, it would have a profit margin of 2-3%. Hiring a safety management company cuts into that profit margin. So, rather than hiring a safety management company, the general contractor puts a clause in every one of its contracts with each of the subcontractors, that each subcontractor will assume all safety obligations during the performance of the subcontractor’s work. However, as per standard construction contracts with the owner/developer, the general contractor assumes the responsibility for the safety of the entire project.
As the construction project goes on, no one is performing safety checks. The general contractor thinks that each of the subcontractors are assuming safety obligations. The subcontractors, who have no responsibility for the safety of the overall worksite, unwittingly put their employees at risk. One day, a major construction accident happens. A forklift overturns crushing a worker to death or scaffolding collapses causing multiple workers to fall.
Is the general contractor liable in this situation? Of course the answer depends on what caused the accident. In addition, there are some complex legal issues which must be resolved in order to be able to hold a general contractor liable. However, in many situations, a general contractor which shirks safety considerations can be held accountable for a worker’s injuries. The most common situation involves the employee of a subcontractor who brings suit against a general contractor and other subcontractors whose negligence contributed to the accident.
Related construction accident law articles:
- Employer Liability for Work Related Accidents in Pennsylvania
- Liability in a Construction Accident Case
- PA & NJ Construction Accident Lawsuits: Heavy Equipment Accident Cases
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