If you’ve been a builder for more than a few years you’ve been through a lot. When the housing bubble burst; you survived. Now that the market is better and your business is growing, you’re starting to realize the rewards of surviving. There are still plenty of challenges and one of them is to find qualified subcontractors.
Recently, you started a new subdivision and hired a flat concrete contractor you’ve never worked with before, to put in the sidewalks. This morning you got a call from your new sub; the kind you never want to get. A woman was walking her dog next to your project around dusk last night. She tripped over a mason’s line that was left across a section of sidewalk that had been poured earlier that day. The new flat work guy left the site without setting up any cones, fencing or signs. In fact, he did nothing to warn the public of what is commonly referred to as a “trip & fall hazard.” The woman suffered fractures to both wrists as well as lacerations to her face when she fell. Her injuries will require surgery and she’ll be unable to work for several months. Her pain and suffering have yet to be determined.
Your new sub has his own general liability insurance that should respond to this claim. You required him to have his insurance company add you to his policy as additional insured. That way they will defend you if and when the woman’s attorney sues you as well as your sub. The certificate of insurance you required your sub to provide shows all of this. Everything should be fine. But, trip & fall claims can spiral out of control.
Disputes can arise over who should have protected the worksite. Subcontractors or, their attorneys, can argue that’s the general contractor’s job. You feel that you don’t have time to hover over every jobsite making sure each sub is placing the proper emphasis on safety. Besides, you hired them to do a job and that includes doing it safely. Doesn’t it? All your subs understand this, don’t they?
In most states you, as the general contractor, are ultimately responsible for worksite safety. That doesn’t mean the subs get a free pass. But it usually means the general contractor has to do more than just assume everyone is being safe. That means holding periodic safety meetings, making sure new subs understand what you expect from them before starting work each morning, during the workday and after shutting down for the night. Active worksites are dangerous places even when they are nothing more than a partially completed sidewalk in poor light where an unsuspecting woman takes her dog for a walk.
Holding regular safety meetings doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost you much money. Meetings don’t have to be held every day; just regularly enough to make it clear to everyone concerned that you are committed to preventing accidents involving both the public and anyone else at your worksites.
The RWC Insurance Advantage is dedicated to loss prevention. To prove it, we offer up to 25% off your new general liability premium if you provide us with a copy of your written safety program. If you’re already insured with us, we’ll even offer the same incentive on your next renewal if you haven’t already received it.