In Hughes General Contractors, Inc. v. Utah Labor Commission, 2014 UT 3, the Supreme Court of Utah rejected the multi-employer worksite doctrine under the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act (“UOSHA”). UOSHA requires that “[e]ach employer . . . furnish each of the employer’s
employees employment and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or physical harm to the employer’s employees . . .” Utah Code § 34A-6-201(1). UOSHA is similar to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”). Under OSHA, general contractors are subject to citations and fines for OSHA violations on the worksite even if a subcontractor, not the general contractor, committed the violation. This is known as the multi-employer worksite doctrine.
In the Hughes case, the Utah Labor Commission fined Hughes for failing to inspect and correct UOSHA violations committed by the masonry subcontractor. Hughes challenged its fine for several reasons including Hughes’s contention that Hughes was not responsible for the safety of the subcontractor’s employees.
Noting significant differences between UOSHA and OSHA, the Supreme Court of Utah agreed with Hughes that UOSHA limits the responsibility of worksite safety to each employer’s own employees. Accordingly, a general contractor may not be fined for its subcontractor’s UOSHA violations.
This offers some but not much comfort to general contractors because the multi-employer worksite doctrine still applies under OSHA. Accordingly, general contractors must still exercise great caution to ensure subcontractors comply with OSHA requirements on their worksites.
Copyright © Daniel L. Day 2014
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