The United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit has been asked to review OSHA’s twenty year old “controlling employer” policy. As many contractors are surprised to learn, under OSHA’s controlling employer policy, you can be given an OSHA citation even when your own employee is not exposed to the alleged hazard.
A. The Controlling Employer Policy
OSHA’s current controlling employer policy has been effective since 1999. That policy applies to multi-employer worksites, which means virtually all construction sites. Under the policy, OSHA can cite the creating, exposing, correcting, or controlling employer. A creating employer is one who creates the hazard to which workers are exposed. The exposing employer is one who permits his employees to be exposed to the hazard, whether it created the hazard or not. The correcting employer is one who is responsible with correcting known hazards. Finally, the controlling employer is one “who has general supervisory authority over the worksite, including the power to correct safety and health violations itself or require others to correct them.” Most general contractors and CM’s are controlling employers.
Under OSHA’s policy, a contractor’s OSHA safety obligations hinges on whether it is a creating, exposing, correcting, or controlling employer. The creating, exposing, and correcting contractors obligations are fairly straightforward. However, the controlling contractors obligations are more nuisanced.