Multi-employer worksites have come under far greater scrutiny in the last few years because so many contractors are working together, merging or collaborating with the federal government on large-scale construction projects. Contractors are also classifying full-time employees as part-time or temporary.
In addition to the legal liabilities these situations present, multi-employer worksites have many unique hazards. Differing safety policies, standard practices and training levels can create an uneven playing field where many workers are ill-prepared for — or unaware of — the dangers of their surroundings.
Ultimately, whether you’re partnering with a staffing agency, hiring independent contractors or working alongside another firm, you’ll need to keep in mind a few of the most important strategies for multi-employer worksite safety.
Understand OSHA Regulations
OSHA last updated its multi-employer policy in 1999, and it classifies employers and their responsibilities in four categories:
- Creating: The employer that caused a hazardous condition that violates an OSHA standard.
- Exposing: An employer whose own employees are exposed to the hazard.
- Correcting: An employer who is engaged in a common undertaking, on the same worksite, as the exposing employer and is responsible for correcting a hazard.
- Controlling: An employer who has general supervisory authority over the worksite, including the power to correct safety and health violations itself or require others to correct them.
In any event warranting a citation, OSHA will determine which of these categories applies to the offending employer or employers and issue fines and penalties accordingly. In general, however, no employer can offload its responsibility to its own employees onto another company, and blaming another entity for any worker’s misfortune is a losing legal strategy. For both safety and liability purposes, the best approach is to take as many steps as possible to protect your own employees and anyone working on the same worksite.
Screen Your Candidates
You can’t control who other companies hire, but you can double-check your subcontractors’ work histories, incident rates and safety-related policies. Have they come under fire from OSHA, and if so, how did they settle the citations? Do they have a history of accidents at similar worksites? Do they have programs in place for substance abuse and other safety-related problems? Asking these questions ahead of time will help you keep unsafe people and practices away from your worksites altogether.
Verify Insurance Coverage
Likewise, you should always make sure your partners and subcontractors are solidly insured, and that they will ultimately be responsible for their own workers’ unsafe practices. You’ll face fewer legal and financial risks, and they’ll be more likely to do their part to keep everyone safe.
Discuss Safety in Advance
Address every potential safety hazard with co-contractors and subcontractors before construction begins, or before new parties enter an in-progress worksite. This allows responsibilities to be divided equitably, and it gives each company a chance to highlight problems the others may have missed.
Safety Talks and Goal-Setting
In addition to dividing responsibilities and pinpointing hazards, it’s important for all parties to reinforce positive behaviors by agreeing on common goals and policies. An entire worksite might have a zero accident goal, for instance, and all employees might be required to wear specific protective equipment. If you’re hiring subcontractors, you can even encourage safe behavior by offering zero-incident bonuses.
Multi-Employer Training Sessions
You train your own employees on safety, but what about others at your worksite? To make sure everyone is on the same page, collaborate with your co-contractors and subcontractors to conduct mandatory sessions before work begins. Organize your efforts with a digital training management system, and encourage other parties to do the same.
Create Safety Committees
To synchronize your safety efforts and encourage open communication, establish a safety committee with representatives from all contractors. The committee should convene several times during the course of the job; it can be an excellent venue for small and large parties alike to voice their concerns. When all is said and done, hold a final meeting to discuss what went wrong, what went well and how each contractor can make their jobsites safer moving forward.
Being a safety manager has many challenges beyond managing multi-employer worksite safety. For tips on how you can manage important documents, report incidents and keep up with regulations, check out our guide, Quick Tips for Managing Your JSAs!