Construction site accidents involve many players and they can be complicated. They also involve many defendants. There is one unmistakable document that governs the relationship of the parties. It is the friend of the injured working man. That document is the American Institute of Architect’s General Conditions, Form 201-2007. It sets out the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Essentially, it says to the general contractor, you are being paid a lot of money so we, the owner of the site, expect certain things from you. Needless to say, safety is chief among the expectations. This document is so powerful that it is not readily produced by the defendants lest they provide your lawyer with a powerful weapon. Shockingly, it may not be produced even though the face page of the contract between the owner and the general contractor explicitly references 201-2007.
Article 10 of that document discusses safety and what the expectations are of the general contractor for the project. Article 10 says the contractor shall be responsible for initiating, maintaining and supervising all safety precautions. It goes on to say that this is for the protection of the employees on the work and other persons who will be affected thereby. There is a lot in that statement. Employees on the work includes employees of subcontractors, the bulk of the people who would be working on the construction site, as well as others who may be affected. Thus, clearly and unmistakably, it refers to passersby, vendors, delivery people or anybody of that nature. These are all people who are entitled to a duty of reasonable care on the part of the entity who is in control. That entity is superintending or supervising the construction site. Almost always the party in control is the general contractor and with that control comes the nondelegable duty of safety. Nondelegable means what is says: the duty can’t be passed off to others down the line despite the contention and protestations of the one in charge.
Article 10 of this document goes on to say more. It says that there shall be a responsible person designated by the general contractor whose mission is to carry the work out safely. As a result, I suggest to you that, in spite of the fact that you may find many actors and many documents, the starting point is to learn who that person is. While there may be volumes of evidence, you should start where it begins and ends: with the person so designated.
Who is the responsible person? The unambiguous answer in the contract is the designated person of the general contractor. He or she may be referred to as the project manager or the site manager or something else. It doesn’t matter, for it is he/she who has the safety responsibility. By using this contract you are able to demonstrate the acknowledged role that safety is to play on the project. The the entity/group/general contractor who signed the contract is held to the standards expressed in that document. The expectations of the parties are made clear and contract language in a tort case is known to be the expression of the parties’ expectations of who will do what. This document, referenced in the owner’s contract, this General Conditions AIA document A201-2007, is the launching pad therefore for anyone handling a construction site accident. Accordingly, many questions of the various witnesses presented by the defendants should flow from the Article 10 of the AIA document. How can those requirements, mandates really, be ignored? They can’t is the short and powerful answer.
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