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Have you hired contractors to do work for you without knowing what your legal obligation as "PRIME CONTRACTOR" under WSBC (WorkSafeBC the BC Workers Compensation Board), or any other authority having jurisdiction? Don’t leave yourself open to liability as former BC Premier Gordon Campbell.


Roofer's fatal fall at Gordon Campbell's home highlights little-known law


Campbell, as the homeowner, became the "prime contractor" because he failed to assign that written role to the general contractor                                           


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     An accident in which a roofer was killed when he fell through the skylight of former premier Gordon Campbell's vacation home is highlighting a little-known piece of contract law that can have huge implications for home owners.

In a report released publicly Monday, WorkSafeBC said Campbell, as the home owner, became the "prime contractor" because he failed to assign that written role to the general contractor whose company was doing some renovations on his Sunshine Coast home last July. As a result, the former premier had the legal responsibility for coordinating and establishing compliance with health and safety requirements.

The accident occurred when David Lesko, an employee of Weather Tight Supplies Ltd., lost his balance and fell nearly 18 feet to his death. At the time he was wearing a fall arrest harness but had not secured it to an anchor point. Three other employees of the company were also on the roof, all without fall arrest equipment. Weather Tight was registered with WorkSafeBC, but in the past had been cited several times by the provincial agency for not complying with its acts and regulations.

WorkSafe spokeswoman Donna Freeman WorkSafe said Monday that Campbell was given a written order of what he must do to comply in future as a prime contractor. WorkSafe is also considering levying a penalty against Weather Tight, she said.

Paul Devine, a lawyer with Miller Thomson who specializes in health and safety law, said the accident illustrates how little home owners know about their legal responsibilities when they hire contractors to do work around their home.

Most people don't realize they should check to make sure the company they hire is registered with WorkSafe or that they are financially responsible if an unregistered worker is hurt on the job. They also have no clue that they should assign the role of prime contractor to the main company doing the work, Devine said.

"Most home owners would go out and hire as a contractor and assume they would bring in all the sub-trades and make sure they are looked after," he said. "The problem is under the legislation it says you have to assign a prime contractor in writing and if you don't the owner becomes the prime contractor. I don't know that most people think past whether the hiring or whether this person is going to do a good job or the cost of it, rather than about the liability if somebody is injured. Generally speaking I don't think home owners think in those terms."

In Campbell's case, there were three separate companies working on his project, two groups of carpenters and the roofers. All were registered with WorkSafe. But because no one was assigned as prime contractor, the role of ensuring they all complied with health and safety regulations fell to Campbell, something investigators said the former premier was unaware of. Campbell was not on the site when the accident occurred.

Freeman said because Weather Tight was registered, WorkSafe covered the workers' compensation insurance for Lesko. But she said in cases where contractors aren't registered with WorkSafe, home owners are fully liable for any compensation costs. She said there are fewer than five cases a year in which there are serious accidents or fatalities at an unregistered home owner work site.


Photograph by: Darren Stone , Postmedia News

Photograph by: Darren Stone , Postmedia News

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