Almost every safety professional has heard about OSHA's multi-employer worksite policy and knows something about the levels of employers identified within it. Despite this, many of us may not understand the liability that is presented by this regulation and often fail to protect our clients with some basic programs that if implemented, help to both provide some degree of protection and also ensure that our workplaces are as safe as they need to be. For those who have been involved in a worksite accident, you already know of the disruption and problems that are created. Much like the example of the iceberg that is used to illustrate that some things are not as obvious as others, a worksite accident can bring many things to the surface that otherwise are not seen. Beside the obvious direct issues associated with the accident, having to deal with the employee and the injury, workers compensation issues, and the direct cost of handling those things; the indirect cost of an accident at the worksite can be far greater. And that is equally or even more true when the employee who is injured at your site is not your own. For now, in addition to the things that are normally involved, the complex morass of legal technicalities and liability begin to surface. Such is the nature and intent of the multi-employer worksite policy and its application to the workplace.
One doesn't need to be an attorney to understand some basic legal concepts when it comes to the liability concerns brought forth by the multi-employer worksite rules. As someone who has been qualified as an expert witness, the concepts are part of many lawsuits and make the need to implement a program of qualifying those who work at your site or who you hire to perform work on your behalf. While we would never intentionally allow our own employees to break safety rules or act in an unsafe manner, without knowing more about those we hire, we run not only the risk that an accident will occur, but also the risk of being sued for not protecting that employee from hazards created or present at your site.
Before any further discussion of liability and accident prevention programs can occur, it is important that we take time to review the four groups of employers that are designated by OSHA and who work at the multi-employer worksites. It is also important that we understand how these groups of workers interact and what is the real intent of breaking employers into these groups.