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Construction Law: General Contractor Duties & Responsibilities

The Duties and Responsibilities of General Contractors

By Travis Clark  |  Associate Attorney  |  Seattle Office

Most construction projects in Washington have what is called a “general contractor”. A general contractor is a contractor that oversees the construction project. The general contractor hires and supervises specialty subcontractors, who perform discrete tasks on the jobsite. Under Washington law, the general contractor is responsible for keeping the jobsite safe for all workers that are working on it. In fact, our State Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that general contractors owe a duty to all workers, including employees of subcontractors, to provide a safe place to work and to comply with our state’s comprehensive construction site regulations. These duties are nondelegable, meaning that the general contractor cannot transfer or assign them to another contractor.

The reason general contractors owe these non-delegable duties makes sense. Our courts have recognized that general contractors are in the best position to control the jobsite and ensure that it is safe for everyone working on it. So, general contractors can be held liable for injuries on their jobsite if subcontractors (or their employees) are working without proper safety equipment, working in a dangerous or unsafe manner, or working in way that violates one of Washington’s many regulations that regulate construction jobsite safety. A general contractor who lacks knowledge of our great state’s safety regulations, fails to provide proper safety equipment, and/or neglects to enforce jobsite safety regulations can face a civil lawsuit if a worker of another contractor is injured or dies on the jobsite.

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