When more than one employer operates at a single site, Cal/OSHA considers it a multi-employer worksite. A construction site is an example of a multi-employer worksite with multiple contractors assigned the work, but not all at the same time. Employers at multi-employer worksites need to know their responsibilities, assigned roles, and accountability for employee health and safety. Note that a multi-employer worksite differs from a dual-employer worksite, where an employee has two employers at the same time. For example, a temporary agency employee that is assigned to another employer’s worksite.
On multi-employer worksites, all of the employers must work together to identify and control hazards to meet Cal/OSHA standards for employee health and safety. Property and project owners have the same responsibility for employee safety. When Cal/OSHA identifies safety violations at a worksite, the agency evaluates the owner and employer hierarchy to determine which owner and/or employer(s) is/are responsible for the violation.
Cal/OSHA identifies four categories of employers at a multi-employer worksite:
- The creating employer creates the violation condition.
- The exposing employer employs the workers exposed to a violation, regardless of whether that employer created the condition.
- The controlling employer is responsible, by contract or practice, for the safety and health conditions at the worksite and has the authority to correct the violation.
- The correcting employer has the specific responsibility to correct violation conditions
Worksites may contain several or all of the employer categories. A single employer may also fit into more than one of the categories. For example, an employer may be both a creating and a correcting employer or a correcting and a controlling employer. The hierarchy on a multi-employer worksite is generally from the owner/employer to general/prime contractors and then to subcontractors.
Contractors often hire subcontractors to work on construction sites. If the subcontractor creates a health and safety violation, is the contractor subject to a Cal/OSHA citation? Both the contractor and the sub may be responsible. Even if the general contractor did not contribute to the hazard and had no employees in the area, as the top of the employer hierarchy, the contractor is still responsible for overseeing the overall health and safety on the worksite.
Owners/contractors should pre-qualify subcontractors before hiring them. They or the controlling contractor should examine the Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), insurance loss runs, and a three-year history of Cal/OSHA citations for all subcontractors.
Safety planning should be done before a new project and before each new phase. The plan should identify site-specific hazards, safety precautions, and the responsible party; this information should be written into the site contracts. The controlling employer must ensure that each contractor/subcontractor understands and agrees to follow the safety requirements in the contract. Conducting periodic safety inspections based on the hazard level and daily meetings between site safety managers and subcontractors can help keep everyone informed about changing worksite conditions and potential problems.
The responsibility of the controlling employer does not end with communicating required safety precautions, or notifying the other employers about unsafe conditions or behavior. The controlling employer must do everything within his/her power, up to and including terminating the contract, to maintain a safe workplace and protect all employees on site.
Through cooperation and vigilance, all of the employers involved in a multi-employer worksite can maintain safety standards and protect employee health.
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations, or standards.