Construction sites are congested intersections of busy workers and dangerous equipment. State and federal laws regulate worksite conditions, but workers often sustain job site injuries when contractors violate these safety requirements. Workers may have a variety of legal remedies for their construction site injuries, including workers’ compensation benefits and third-party claims against entities other than their own employers. The varied dangers of a construction site are not limited, however, to workers alone. Members of the public who walk or drive by urban worksites or highway construction may be injured by hazardous conditions on or near the job site. Massachusetts law recognizes and provides legal remedies for members of the public injured by construction activities.
General contractors typically have the ultimate responsibility for performance of the construction work, as well as job site safety. General contractors may have a non-delegable duty for the overall safety of the job site, including to members of the public. A general contractor and a subcontractor may make their own arrangements with respect to the division of safety obligations, but the general contractor can still be held liable for any dangerous work-site conditions that cause injury. Where a subcontractor’s negligence (or the negligence of its employees) causes injury to a member of the public, both the general contractor and the subcontractor may be liable to the injured person.
While a general contractor is subject to these legal requirements, the specific language of the construction contract may provide additional grounds for liability. The scope of work outlined in the contract may establish the parameters of the general or other contractor’s responsibilities and oversight obligations to the public. How the general contractor performs these responsibilities, including its course of dealing with subcontractors, may be evidence of the general’s own carelessness. A careful analysis of the facts in the context of Massachusetts law is required to determine which parties, in addition to the general contractor, bear legal responsibility to members of the public.