Any work sites can present a challenge for your safety program! Many times you will be on a job with other contractors or working in a large manufacturing facility or office building. Each of these contractors or building owners, just like you, must have safety programs. There are situations when these programs will take precedence over your program, and there are situations when their lack of safety programs or safe working practices can have serious consequences for your company. It is important for you to know what your company's OSHA responsibilities are, and for your employees to understand when and where other safety policies and regulations come into effect. Without this information, you can inadvertently find yourself in the middle of an OSHA compliance problem that could have been easily avoided.

Most contractors are familiar with special requirements for regulations like "Permit-Required Confined Space Programs," "Scaffolding," and "Lock Out-Tag Out," when they are working at a host facility. In each case, you must ensure that you are working in accordance with the host employer's safety program. What you may not know is that OSHA has a Multi-employer Citation Policy that assigns employer responsibility for violations of OSHA regulations when other contractors are working with you.

At first glance, OSHA's Multi-employer Work Site Policy seems to be a web of entrapment. More than one company on a work site can be cited for a hazardous condition that violates OSHA regulations. Most jobs have contractual responsibilities for each company involved. However, in many cases, you can be held responsible not only for the safety of your workers, but also for those of other employers as well.

As an employer, you have a duty to comply with OSHA standards, make a reasonable effort to determine if hazardous situations exist and correct or eliminate those hazards. If you don't understand OSHA's Multi-employer Citation Policy, you could find yourself in a "Catch - 22" situation and not even be aware of your exposure to a citation.

To understand how OSHA interprets the Multi-employer Citation Policy, you need to be familiar with the OSHA Compliance Directive for this policy. Compliance Directives provide instructions to OSHA inspectors on how to interpret the policy. If you understand these instructions, you can help ensure your compliance.

On a multi-employer work site, responsibility for a citable or hazardous condition could fall on one or more of the following employer rolls:
· Creating Employer
· Exposing Employer
· Correcting Employer
· Controlling Employer

OSHA will use a two-step process to determine whether one or more employers will be cited. The first step is to determine the role of the employer. The second step is to determine if the employer took the proper actions to meet its obligations under OSHA requirements.

The creating employer is the employer that caused the hazardous condition in violation of OSHA regulations. The creating employer must not create or expose its employees, or other employees, to a hazardous condition. The creating employer is citable even if the only employees exposed worked for another company.

An exposing employer exposes its employees to the hazard. If this company created the hazard, it is cited as the creating employer. If only the exposing employers' employees were exposed to the hazard, to avoid a citation the employer must prove it took steps to protect its employees by warning them of the hazard, took steps to correct the hazard, or asked the creating or controlling employer to correct the hazard. In extreme circumstances, this may involve removing workers from the job.

The correcting employer is at the same work site as the exposing employer, but is responsible for correcting any hazardous conditions. This usually occurs when a company has responsibility for installing or maintaining safety or health systems and equipment. To avoid a citation, the correcting employer must prove it used reasonable care to prevent or discover hazards in the workplace.

A controlling employer has general supervisory authority over the work site, including the power to correct or require others to correct any safety or health violations. This control is established contractually or is established by general supervisory authority over the work site. To avoid a citation, the controlling employer must prove that reasonable care was used to prevent or detect hazards in the workplace. Reasonable care, in this situation, may be less than what is required by companies protecting their own employees. The controlling employer is not normally expected to inspect for hazards as frequently, or have the same knowledge of applicable standards or trade expertise, as the company it has hired. The scale of the project, nature and pace of the work, and the safety record of the hired employer determine reasonable care. When evaluating reasonable care, OSHA will consider whether the controlling employer conducted periodic inspections of appropriate frequency, implemented an effective system for promptly correcting hazards, and enforce the other employer's compliance with safety and health requirements.

Each type of employer; creating, exposing, correcting, or controlling can be found in multiple roles. Creating, controlling or contracting employers often double as an exposing employer. Likewise, exposing, creating, and controlling employers can also be characterized as correcting employers.

As with all OSHA regulations, always keep a vigilante eye out for safety or health hazards, inform and train your employees, correct the problem immediately or bring the problem to the attention of all parties involved and keep a written record of your actions.

For more detailed information on OSHA's Multi-employer Citation Policy, go to http://www.osha.gov/ and look under Compliance Directives.

O'CONNOR is with Intec, a Waverly, Pa., company that produces safety manuals with training videos and software for contractors. Based in Alexandria, Va., he can be reached at (703) 628-4326, or by e-mail at joconnor@intecweb.com.