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Be careful if you have to hire two contractors to work on your church building at the same time: in that case the owner becomes the designated constructor responsible for all aspects of health and safety on the site.

Hopefully all our wardens and clergy read the article on hazardous materials. Today we are reminding you of another issue that could get us in trouble if we are unaware of the rules.  If your Board of Management has employed a contractor to work on your church buildings, who is the designated “constructor”, and why is that important?

The Ministry of Labour require that one person on every construction site be responsible for health and safety as required under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act.  The contractor will normally have one person trained to fill that role, and you need not concern yourself with that.

But what happens when there are two contractors working on the site at the same time? Now the Act clearly states that the owner (or the owner’s representative) becomes the “constructor”, and that person is responsible for all aspects of health and safety on the site.

You never want to be in that position.

The constructor is the “go to” person for every accident on the site. When there is a lost time accident, the Ministry will investigate, and if safety rules were not being followed, they will lay charges, and the person charged is the “constructor”.

A simple example:

You have employed a contractor to replace the roof, and while that is going on, you retain another contractor to paint the interior of the church hall. The roofers are wearing safety boots, but the painters are wearing sneakers.  A painter comes out of the hall and steps on a roofing nail which goes into his foot.  You have a problem!

Same scenario with same two contractors, but this time the roofer has installed scaffolding to access the church steeple. The scaffolding was not erected properly and collapses, killing or seriously injuring a worker.  Because there were two contractors working on the site, the church warden is the designated “constructor” and will be charged.  Penalties include very large fines and possible jail.

You never want to be in that position.

This is not an issue if there is only one contractor working for you so you need not worry yourself about the Act. The sections on health and safety are long and onerous, and even if you have someone in your congregation familiar with the Act you still do not want that responsibility.

What if we hire a contractor and he brings in a subcontractor?

Not a problem, because you only hired one contractor. The prime contractor is responsible for ensuring his sub complies with safety rules.

What if the two contractors are working on different buildings? Generally the owner is still on the hook as the “constructor”.

What if one contractor is working during the day and the second contractor works evenings? The owner is still on the hook.

If you have a situation that is not clear, call the Ministry of Labour to get clarification. The consequences are too severe to take any chances.

And by the way, the same rules apply if you hire two contractors to work on your home!

Diocesan Land and Property Committee