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Responsibility For Injured Construction Subcontractor Employees

Posted by Leslie Ruhland on Dec 6, 2018 1:06:28 PM
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Workplace injuries are more common in the construction industry than any other industry. But too often the general contractor is forced to accept responsibility for claims from injured subcontractor workers.



The construction industry routinely uses trade-specific subcontractors and laborers for a wide variety of tasks needed on a construction project. General contractors use subcontractors as a common business practice to help construction projects to be done efficiently and cost-effectively. 

However, the addition of subcontractors to a construction project involves questions of responsibility and liability for all of the workers employed by each subcontractor. A common and unfortunate issue that often arises is a subcontractor's employee becoming injured while working on a construction site. If the injury is sufficiently severe, the worker can make a worker's compensation claim.

In those situations, the question may arise as to who is responsible for the workers' compensation benefits.

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The Major Causes of Construction Workplace Injuries

OSHA statistics report that there were 4,836 workplace fatalities in 2015. This breaks down to over 93 fatal accidents each week on average, or more than 13 deaths every day. Of these fatalities, over 21% were on construction sites.

In other words, more than one in five worker deaths on average occur in the construction field.

The major causes of private sector worker deaths in the construction industry were falls, followed by being struck by objects, electrocution, and what is termed "caught-in/between." The last cause refers to accidents in which workers are "caught in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material" according to OSHA.

Referred to as the "Fatal Four" by OSHA, these types of accidents were responsible for over 64 percent of the construction worker deaths in 2015.

Who's Responsible for Accident Claims?

While the accepted contractual requirement that a subcontractor provide for workers' compensation can typically be assumed, it pays to be proactive and make certain of a subcontractor's sufficient insurance coverage. Subcontractors do not always carry or have sufficient coverage in place which can leave the GC potentially liable.

Consequently, general contractors must be diligent to ensure that their liabilities are clear and clearly understood. This is especially true for larger firms with multiple projects and subcontractors working for them. As noted in an article at,

"In complex construction projects with numerous subcontractors and an ever-approaching deadline, the need for skilled and efficient labor sometimes overrides a thorough examination of a subcontractor's insurance coverage. Unfortunately, that mistake can become extremely costly as general contractors will assume liability for workers' compensation benefits for injuries to an employee it did not directly hire."

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In California, for example, a recent case underscored previous court precedent that established general contractors are not generally liable for a workplace injury to a subcontractor's employee. In the case of Ortega v. Crabb Construction Co. Inc., Calif. an employee of a subcontractor was injured due to negligence on the part of his direct employer, the subcontractor working for the general contractor. 

The injured worker sued his direct employer, the general contractor, and the client of the general contractor, Taco Bell. However, because the general contractor had delegated the responsibility to provide a safe workplace to that subcontractor, the court dismissed the complaint.

The key point being that a general contractor may be liable for injuries to a subcontractor's employee only in situations where the general contractor retained control of the workplace and exercised that control in a negligent manner.

With that in mind, an article at the SHRM website points out that:

"If a general contractor retains the right to oversee or supervise the work done by a subcontractor at a building site and exercises that right by inspecting the work or giving instructions to the subcontractor, it may risk liability for an injured employee for failing to correct a hazardous condition at the site."

Construction Contractors and HR Compliance

Every successful construction job requires a number of tasks such as building materials acquisition, complying with building codes and other regulations, hiring subcontractors, and meeting deadlines. In addition, all those vendors and sub-contractors have to be paid, as well as your own employees.

Accuchex has considerable experience and knowledge in processing and reporting certified payrolls. We have been a leading provider in certified payroll management services for many years. Unique to certified payrolls are that they are often a subset of a company’s normal payroll pertaining to just one job, usually a government project.

Our payroll specialists and systems personnel have the training and experience for managing the complexities of processing and reporting certified payrolls, and for overall certified payroll management. These tasks include payroll input on a daily basis, job codes, pay codes and report parameters for extracting data for the correct reporting periods.

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Let Us Help With Your Certified Payroll

Accuchex's Time2Pay provides construction employers with a simple and user-friendly interface for tracking all the information required on certified payrolls, including dates worked, hours worked, job codes, pay codes, and more. Time2Pay also offers you the ability to allocate workers to specific construction projects and tracking their hours worked on each project.

If you have different groups of employees working on different projects, you want to centralize the process. Time2Pay certified payroll software  allows for the input of daily work information for all the projects your construction company is engaged with.

Detailed report generation provides protection against audits and dozens of reports are available directly through Time2Pay for your records. In conjunction with experienced certified payroll processing services, Accuchex provides construction companies with access to every tool necessary for accountability and for staying on top of their legal requirements.

The value that comes with winning government contracts means payroll compliance is of clear importance. You can trust in the experience and accuracy of Accuchex's certified payroll services. And with that confidence, you can sign your Statement of Compliance, which certifies the accuracy of the payroll, without hesitation.

Do you have any questions related to certified payroll or outsourced certified payroll services. Please connect with us online for a complimentary certified payroll demonstration or contact us at (415) 883-7733.


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Topics: independent contractors, contractors, injury claims, construction workplace, general contractors

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