Multi-employer workplaces are common across a variety of industries — from construction to manufacturing. But what do multi-employer workplaces mean for OSHA compliance? A site might be owned by one employer, supervised by another, with employees from yet another. So, who holds the responsibility for workplace health and safety?

OSHA’s Multi-Employer Citation Policy (MECP) covers these situations, holding the appropriate employer responsibility for workplace hazards. However, in multi-employer worksites this can also mean that more than one employer is cited for a violation.

Types of Employers in Multi-Employer Workplaces

OSHA has four different employer categories to cover multi-employer workplaces:

  • Creating Employer. This is the employer that creates the OSHA violation. The creating employer may or may not be the employer of the workers who are exposed.
  • Exposing Employer. This is the employer whose employees are exposed to the hazard. They may or may not also be the creating employer.
  • Correcting Employer. This is the employer who is responsible for correcting workplace hazards.
  • Controlling Employer. This is the employer who oversees the worksite. This employer has the power to correct, or direct others to correct, safety violations.

One implication of OSHA’s MECP is that it can cite multiple employers for the same hazard.

Using the example of a construction site with a worker exposed to a hazard, the exposing employer would be the employer of that worker. They can be held accountable if they knew about the hazard but failed to take action to protect their employees. On a site where there are multiple contractors, OSHA may classify other contractors on the site as the creating employer or controlling employer for the same hazard. It is also possible that one contractor can be classified under more than one category defined in the MECP.

OSHA Standards for Controlling Employers

While creating, exposing, and correcting employers may have clear responsibilities to prevent hazards, the standards for controlling employers are more confusing. But controlling employers also carry a higher responsibility for compliance, so it’s important to understand what a controlling employer’s obligations are.

To determine whether a controlling employer is subject to citations under MECP, it must be determined if the actions of the employer were enough to meet its OSHA obligations. OSHA expects controlling employers to exercise “reasonable care” to prevent hazards, including inspections of the worksite.

How often the employer should be inspecting the workplace is determined by many factors: the nature of the work being performed, the scale of the project, what the employer knows about the potential hazards, and what the employer knows about the safety practices of the other employers at the site. For example, if a subcontractor is known to have a history of frequent safety violations, it is expected that the controlling employer will perform more frequent worksite inspections.

Failing to exercise “reasonable care” to prevent safety violations could cause the controlling employer to receive an OSHA violation, even if they did not directly cause the hazard.

Avoiding OSHA Multi-Employer Citations

If you are a controlling employer of a worksite, you will want to be careful about which subcontractors you hire, be intentional about the safety practices you enforce at your worksite and perform frequent inspections. Making sure your safety program prevents workplace hazards to avoid OSHA citations can include many different actions including safety training, discussing safety with other site employers in advance, and having a clear system for reporting hazards.

If you are a subcontractor at a site, you will want to make sure you meet all safety requirements and make reasonable efforts to prevent your employees from being exposed to hazards — even if they are not hazards you created. You will also want to make sure you do not create hazards for employees of other employers at the site.

For assistance in implementing a safety plan for your multi-employer workplace or to determine your compliance burden as an employer, contact Tetra Tech’s health and safety experts at healthandsafety@tetratech.com. We can help you train employers, inspect workplaces for hazards, and come up with a plan to keep your employees, and the employees of other employers at your worksite, safe.