Ruling Limits Multi-Employer Worksite Doctrine at Construction Sites

August 16, 2007
by JILL HYMAN KAPLAN
Client Alert Newsletter August 2007

In Secretary of Labor v. Summit Contractors, Inc., the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission held that 29 C.F.R. § 1910.12(a) precludes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") from holding an employer responsible to ensure that other employers at a construction worksite comply with OSHA standards. In the past, the Review Commission had held that as a "controlling employer" a general contractor had the ability to ensure that any subcontractors' employees were properly protected. Management attorneys have argued that the multi-employer doctrine has sometimes prevented owners or general contractors from exerting overt control over subcontractors so as to prevent being tagged with OSHA responsibility. It is unclear whether the Summit holding will increase or hinder job site safety. OSHA has filed a petition to review this decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. In the interim, employers cited under the multi-employer worksite doctrine may have some leverage in OSHA negotiations due to this recent opinion.