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Subcontractor Must Warn of Dangers, Court Says

(CN) -The subcontractor of a tenant improvement project doesn't have to tell workers about inherent jobsite hazards that it didn't create, but it does have to report known dangers, a California Court of Appeals ruled.

The decision reverses a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit against Pacific Northstar Mechanical by a worker who was shocked by an ungrounded, hanging light fixture in 2005 while working on a heating and air conditioning system.

Miguel Suarez claimed his foreman, Rafael Campos, Sr., knew that his son, Rafael Campos, Jr., also was shocked by the same ungrounded outlet three weeks before Suarez was allegedly injured, but failed to tell anyone.

Pacific sought dismissal, claiming it did not own, lease or occupy the property, and added that it was not hired to inspect ungrounded light fixtures.

California Occupational Safety and Health Administration laws "impose a duty on each employer, at a multiemployer worksite, to report all non-obvious hazards about which the employer learns because its employees were exposed to them during the course of their work, even if the employer in question did not create the hazard," Justice Ignazio Ruvolo wrote.

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