Appeals court reverses multiemployer citation rule
On Nov. 26, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Department of Labor can issue citations to certain employers at multiemployer work sites for violations of occupational safety law standards even if the hazardous condition affects another employer's workers. The ruling reverses previous case law.
The case reviewed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stems from alleged dangerous working conditions present during a library excavation project in Austin, Texas. The project's general contractor, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Greeley, Colo., controlled the work site and contracted with Haynes Eaglin Waters LLC, Austin, in 2014 to work on a wall portion of the project. Later that year, Haynes Eaglin Waters contracted with CVI Development LLC, Austin, to complete demolition, excavation and additional work involving the wall.
During excavation on a rainy day, a 12-foot vertical wall of soil developed, and no protective systems were placed to prevent cave-ins as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Although CVI Development was assigned to reinstall reinforcing rods at the wall's base, Karl Daniels, CVI Development's owner, sent his employees to work in another area while awaiting instructions from Hensel Phelps Construction or Haynes Eaglin Waters regarding how to proceed given the poor conditions.