In Massachusetts, homeowners are not held responsible for complying with safety regulations in construction. They can sandblast paint that may contain lead, walk on their roofs without protection and operate in blissful ignorance of the laws regarding safety. If homeowners hire contractors who do not follow safety rules, they are not responsible for that either. The risk of noncompliance falls on the contractor. If a homeowner creates an unsafe condition, of course he/she may be liable if someone gets hurt, but the homeowner does not have to police the contractor. In fact, since many safety regulations make the cost of doing a job more expensive, there is an incentive for homeowners to hire contractors who do not follow the rules! Today my friend and colleague, Mark Paskell posted a story about a roofer in Connecticut who died after falling off a roof. You do not want to have that occur during your job.
Here is a checklist for homeowners to use when hiring a contractor:
1. Make sure your contractor has worker’s compensation insurance to protect his employees, and call the insurance company to ensure that it is still in effect.
2. If the contractor is a sole practitioner, make sure he has health and/or disability insurance. Sole practitioners do not have to have worker’s compensation insurance in Massachusetts. Check with your home insurance to see if they will protect you if someone gets hurt on the job.
3. If the contractor is handling any kind of hazardous waste, make sure the he is complying with the proper procedure for removal and disposal of the materials (this protects both of you).
4. If you hire a roofer, make sure that your roofer is using proper fall protection.
5. If your house is pre-1978 and has not been tested for lead, familiarize yourself with the Renovation, Repair and 6. Painting Rule (RRP) and confirm that your contractor will be following the lead-safe procedures
7. Cooperate with your contractor by staying out of the construction site without asking whether it is safe to enter.
8. Keep pets and children away from the work.
9. Ask workers to leave the premises broom-clean at the end of the day; no one wants to step on or drive over nails.
Follow safety procedures yourself, even though they are not required.
10. Do not hire contractors who do not comply with the law!
As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to see to it that safety rules are follow when doing work on your home. Even if the law does not require it, you should try to make the work safe for your family, the workers and your neighbors.