Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are generally responsible for the safety of their own employees. In most cases, an employer cannot be cited by OSHA if its employees are not exposed to a safety or health hazard. A longstanding exception to this rule involves the multi-employer worksite policy. This principle evolved in the construction industry, and allows OSHA to cite a general contractor when a safety hazard it creates or controls places employees of a subcontractor on the same worksite in danger, even when the general contractor’s own employees face no risk from the condition.
In February, in Solis v. Summit Contractors, Inc., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the multi-employer worksite policy. The plaintiff claimed that OSHA regulations limited the agency’s authority to citing employers for dangers created that involve their own employees. The Eighth Circuit rejected this challenge, affirming the citation against the general contractor.
The court read the regulation cited by the employer as requiring it to protect both its own employees, as well as those for which it controlled safety conditions. The Eighth Circuit interpreted the OSH Act to permit these citations without the need to expand the definition of “employee.” Finally, the court noted the policy benefits behind requiring a general contractor to exercise overall safety supervision with respect to all employees working on the jobsite.