Extended coverage: as an installer, you have an obligation to make sure subcontractors are insured and responsible for their workers

Extended coverage: as an installer, you have an obligation to make sure subcontractors are insured and responsible for their workers – New Dimensions

Mike Butts

“Hello, is this Bill’s father? I’m sorry, but I have some bad news to share with you.”

Receiving a phone call that starts with these dreaded words probably is a parent’s greatest fear, and unfortunately that is just how a conversation began for a close friend of mine a couple of months ago.

His son, I’ll call him Jason, is a college student and was working a summer job for a local contractor. While on the jobsite he was knocked unconscious and taken to the emergency room. It turns out that something struck him in the side of the head with enough force to crack his skull just at the side of his eye socket. The blow also caused a tear in the lining of the eye, which filled with blood. At this point, Jason couldn’t see out of one eye, but he was alive and the injury didn’t appear to be life-threatening. Several specialists and numerous tests later it was determined that he probably would recover in time and wouldn’t have any permanent damage to his vision. That’s the good news.

Now for the bad news: He was working for an unlicensed and uninsured contractor, getting paid under the table for his work. This “employer” had secured several light commercial jobs for the summer and was hiring college kids and paying them cash to avoid payroll taxes and insurance.

The contractor never even called the hospital to check on his “employee,” and when Jason’s father contacted him to discuss the situation, he was informed that the contractor didn’t have any insurance to cover this kind of accident, nor did he have any provisions for continuation of pay, workers’ compensation, etc. On top of that, he was not willing to take any personal or professional responsibility of any kind.

Here’s where it gets really serious: Jason was in college and didn’t have any medical insurance, so now his parents have to pay all of the bills for the accident, as well as all of his living expenses while he’s waiting to get a doctor’s clearance to return to work. According to the family’s lawyer, their only recourse is to sue the contractor (who has virtually nothing) and sue the company that employed the contractor in hopes of recovering some of their expenses.

What’s this got to do with lumberyards and your business? Plenty if you are involved in installed sales and using subcontractors to perform the labor! Make sure you have current copies of all of your subcontractors’ insurance certificates on file in your office. Also ensure that the coverage they carry is sufficient to protect not only you, but your clients as well. If something like this happened on your job, can you guess whom the attorneys are going to come after?

Don’t take chances by using uninsured and unlicensed subs just because their labor is less expensive. You can’t outsmart the laws of statistics, and sooner or later an accident is bound to happen on one of your sites. With that in mind, you should focus on reducing the probability that an injury will result in costly litigation and unnecessary risk for workers. It’s not just a safeguard; it’s also a moral obligation.

Mike Butts is the vice president of the Michigan Lumber and Building Materials Association. 517.394.5225. E-mail: mike@mlbma.org.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group