A general contractor on a residential project was responsible
for the safety of its subcontractors even though it was not on site
at the time of an incident.
The general contractor objected to two compliance orders issued
to him under the Nova Scotia Occupational Health and Safety
Act, arguing that it was "not his work that was at issue,
and therefore not his responsibility".
The general contractor had entered into a handwritten contract
with a homeowner to do renovation work. The contract included the
following among 11 areas of work to be done: "supply general
contractor services for chimney repair re a separate service to
this contract". He then obtained four quotes for the chimney
work and retained one subcontractor to do that work. He showed the
subcontractor around the property and gave him a key so he could
access the bathroom.
The Labour Board found that there was an agreement that the
subcontractor could use staging that the general contractor had on
site as part of his contract, and that the general contractor would
act as "paymaster" for the subcontractor.
An occupational health and safety officer with the Nova Scotia
government visited the job site in response to an anonymous
complaint. He noted a number of safety issues including roofers
working without adequate fall protection on improperly erected
scaffolds. He issued compliance orders to the general
The Labour Board held that the compliance orders were justified.
The officer had reasonable grounds to believe that it was the
general contractor's worksite over which he had overall
responsibility. The handwritten agreement supported this: it
referred to "general contractor" duties. The
subcontractor and his employee stated that they regarded the
general contractor as their "boss".
The Labour Board determined that the general contractor was
"inclined to distance himself from [the subcontractor] after
the situation became problematic and he realized that he was going
to be held partly responsible. Had the chimney work turned out
well, [the general contractor] might well have taken credit for
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