Artisan contractor is the term that is used to describe specialty contractors that are trained specifically for one vocation. This term is usually used when referring to trade contractors such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, painters, drywall specialists, heating and air technicians, landscapers, roofers, etc. Artisan contractors are different from general contractors in that they typically own their own businesses (or work in a small firm with others in the same trade) and have their own clients but may also provide their services on large construction projects as subcontractors.
Large construction companies and general contractors subcontract jobs to artisan contractors rather than hiring skilled employees for many reasons. Subcontracting allows the hiring party to avoid paying certain taxes or following certain regulations that employers typically have to do. Additionally, if subcontractors are injured on the job, it doesn’t count against the company overseeing the project. However, construction companies don’t want to hire artisan contractors who frequently injure themselves or other workers.
Workplace safety is a concern for artisan contractors because they often come onto a project without a full understanding of the safety hazards or the safety measures and expectations of that specific job site. Add in pressures such as time and budget constraints, and it’s a recipe for disaster. While it should be the responsibility of the project supervisor to ensure the job site is safe for subcontractors, they typically don’t micromanage each worker, so ultimately the responsibility falls on the subcontractors themselves. Additionally, since subcontractors aren’t covered by workers’ compensation insurance or protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) like employees are, it’s crucial that they take their own safety very seriously.
One of the best ways to improve workplace safety for artisan contractors is to bring them into projects with ample time to fully participate in safety training for the specific job site they will be working on. Some subcontractors will insist upon this practice when being asked to work on a project, while others may not realize that it’s even a possibility. Although subcontractors aren’t protected by OSHA regulations, they should still follow those same standards that were designed to keep workers safe.
Another best practice is obtaining artisan contractors insurance, which is tailored to the specific needs of specialty contractors. This type of insurance coverage is typically comprised of a bundle of policies that help manage the unique risks of artisan contractors so that they can remain safe and successful in their trade.
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