Armchair Builder

Owner-Builder Liability

Danger/No Trespassing Signs

Danger/No Trespassing Signs

Liability is something every property and business owner should be concerned with.  As an owner-builder we want to prevent lawsuits, but we also want everyone to be safe around our new building projects.  So in addition to requiring insurance for you and your subcontractors, you will want to take an active role in keeping your job site safe.  Let’s discuss some techniques for protecting yourself, workers, and neighbors while constructing your dream project as the owner-builder.

No Trespassing Signs:  You and your workers know there are dangerous conditions on your construction site…but do neighbors and kids in the area know about them?  The best way to alert them is with Danger and No Trespassing Signs. If I saw a construction site as a kid my first instinct was to go check it out…after working hours of course.  I remember crawling in trenches, jumping down stair holes, and walking along floors with no railings.  You definitely don’t want this kind of liability as an owner-builder.  Since you can’t be around 24 hours a day, signs are a good way to alert people about the dangers of your project..

Fall Hazards: Falls are the most frequent cause of fatalities at construction sites and annually account for one of every three construction-related deaths (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Fatal Occupational Injuries by Industry, 2010).  Fall hazards are definitely a huge liability concern for your new owner-built project.  A fall hazard is anything with a drop of 6′ or more.  Your subcontractors will be required to follow all OSHA guidelines as spelled out in your contracts with them (make sure this is in your subcontract agreement).  However, you or your builder consultant will want to check the site regularly for any potential hazards that might exist.  Caution tape, orange fencing, and fluorescent paint are all good methods for alerting people of the dangers that exist.  For detailed fall hazard information from OSHA for residential construction sites.  Typical fall hazards in new residential construction are…

Photo by Trisha Weir

Photo by Trisha Weir

  • open stair holes (where the stairs are not yet installed):  Best Practice:  install temporary guard rails around them or cover the hole (make sure it will hold a minimum of 300 lbs.)
  • window and door rough openings (before windows/doors are installed):  Best Practice:  nail a 2×4 across each opening from the inside at 36″ off the floor (and one at 18″ for door rough openings)
  • allow for proper egress into and out of the new project:  Best Practice:  use temporary stairs or a ramp with cleats
  • stairs and upper hallways:  Best Practice: install temporary guard railings (all railings should hold a minimum of 250 lbs. of force) with toe guards (2×4 rail at the floor level)
  • falling objects:  Best Practice:  require hard hats for anyone that enters the work site

This is by no means a comprehensive safety checklist.  If you visit Armchair Builder on a regular basis, you know I’m a general contractor, not an attorney or safety expert.  You may want to discuss your liability as an owner-builder with your attorney to get a legal opinion for protecting you and your new construction project.  You can also find a great deal of information on the OSHA site to keep your site safe.  The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) also has some great construction safety and OSHA information for you as an owner-builder.

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5 Comments for Owner-Builder Liability

London Handyman | November 4, 2011 at 7:12 pm

There is always a great danger while a construction is going on. Many accidents happens due to this but if everyone follows the steps that you have mentioned in this blog, then it might come down rapidly. These are some fantastic steps to spread awareness.

Author comment by armchairbuilder | November 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

Thanks for the comment London. We all need to be aware of the dangers involved with our new projects.

Jeremy The Workplace Safety Teacher | November 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm

WONDERFUL Post.thanks for share..more wait .. …

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