General contractor should have known of safety violation: court

A recent ruling by a federal appeals court regarding a fine imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace safety violations may significantly affect workers’ compensation law in Massachusetts.

A Massachusetts based company acting as a general contractor appealed a fine imposed on them for violations that were related to a workplace accident at a construction site a couple of years ago. The general contracting company argued that it was wrongfully fined, as it was held responsible for the acts and omissions of a subcontractor.

The construction site accident in place took place at a residential site. Two roofers fell more than 20 feet when the spruce board that was being used as scaffolding broke in half. They sustained serious injuries in the incident. OSHA conducted an investigation and imposed fines on both the subcontracting company and the general contracting company. According to it, the two companies were acting as a single employer and that the subcontractor was a supervisory employee of the general contractor, and actual or constructive knowledge it possessed about the worksite would be imputed to the general contractor. The appeals court sided with this decision and the fine is upheld.

It is essential for employers to create safe working environments for their employees and not try to shift the responsibility onto other contractors. Holding companies accountable for safety violations is an important way to ensure their compliance in the future. In addition to this, injured workers may also be able to file a workers’ compensation claim with their employers to receive compensation for their injuries.

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