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By Samuel Russin
July 23, 2018
It might not be the first thing you think about, but insurance and public liability should be the primary consideration for anyone working on a jobsite. Without such protections, individuals could be personally liable for incidents that occur, quite often resulting in hefty fines and even bankruptcy.
In order to find out more, Jobsite ANZ spoke with Kate Avery, Principal Lawyer at Karelawyers in Brisbane, Queensland, about the important insurance-related considerations for anyone working on a jobsite.
Liability can be Confusing
There are frequently multiple parties on a construction site, each with varying levels of responsibility and liability and all of this can be confusing.
“You can have multiple contacts involved in a single, even a relatively small construction site—a principal contractor, multiple subcontractors, people employed by the principal contractor, people employed by the subcontractors, and then a building owner who is coming and going all the time. The principal contractor will have an obligation to ensure that the workplace is safe for all of those people. However, there are also liabilities between them all,” said Avery.
Avery has seen firsthand the crippling effects of cases where people were unsure of their responsibility and liability. She went on to recount a story with chilling consequences—something that could, unfortunately, happen to anyone on the jobsite.
“The person involved had taken out insurance in his role as a subcontractor, and an opportunity had come up for him to coordinate a building site. He was licensed to do that, but he hadn’t notified his insurer. Someone was injured on the building site, and his public liability insurer said, ‘No, you aren’t covered for the role of the principal contractor.’
“He had not appreciated that it was a material fact that needed to be disclosed to his insurer, but as it most certainly is, there wasn’t any way around that. So he ended up being uninsured for a fairly large personal injury claim which was going to lead to insolvency and personal bankruptcy, so that was an absolute disaster,” Avery said.
Many job site workers may not be aware of the importance of protection and ongoing disclosure to their insurers as their circumstances change.
Insurance Becomes Tricky When Lines are Blurred
Roles and responsibilities regarding insurance and liability on the job site can be obscured when there are multiple parties involved, Avery explains.
“Principal contractors are responsible for ensuring the construction site is kept neat and tidy, but they are not responsible for telling subcontractors how to do their job. Having said that, a principal contractor sometimes employs people directly—the principal contractor is responsible for establishing and maintaining a safe system of work for its employees. So basically, the liability is quite different for a principal contractor to their own employees, as opposed to the liability they are exposed to for contractors who are on-site. However, they are responsible for both of them, and they do need to take that responsibility very seriously.”
Avery summarised her advice for all workers on a jobsite noting proper insurance is key to protecting both individuals and companies
“It’s absolutely critical to make sure you’ve got the proper insurance in place and not simply relying on industry experience and having thorough workplace health and safety systems in place—it’s just not enough,” Avery said.
While public liability may not be the most exciting thing to talk about, it is essential that everyone who works on a jobsite understand their responsibilities and liabilities. Consult with a professional about your personal circumstances and always ask questions before undertaking any work.
It should be stressed that any legal advice is general in nature, and you should consult with your legal professional and consider your own circumstances before making any decisions. Regulations also vary state by state, so be sure to seek out local advice.
If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks and webinars you may enjoy:
The Future of Construction Safety
Building a Culture of Safety - One Hard Hat at a Time
Construction Quality and Safety: Reducing Rework While Achieving Zero Incidents and Accidents
quality and safety
Reducing Insurance-Related Costs with Construction Technology
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