Homeowners who hire workers must comply with Cal-OSHA safety regulations. Those regulations require the homeowner, as an employer, to furnish a “safe and healthful” place of employment. “Employment” means "the carrying on of any trade, enterprise, project, industry, business, occupation, or work, including all excavation, demolition, and construction work, or any process or operation in any way related thereto, in which any person is engaged or permitted to work for hire, except household domestic service."

The question, then, is what type of work qualifies as “construction” (so that Cal-OSHA applies), and what type is “household domestic service” (so that it doesn’t)?

The courts say that “household domestic service” means household maintenance both inside and outside the residence. If a homeowner hires a worker to clean house, garden or trim trees, Cal-OSHA doesn’t apply under the “household domestic services” exception. But the homeowner must comply with Cal-OSHA when hiring workers for extensive remodeling. The Court recently determined that Cal-OSHA applies to a remodeling project calling for the demolition and rebuilding of significant portions of a house and the construction of new rooms. And, the homeowner may be liable for injuries to a worker caused by failure to comply with Cal-OSHA.

Because Cal-OSHA will apply to an extensive remodeling project, the homeowner who handles his own project must be sure to implement and administer his own Cal-OSHA compliance programs, or to hire licensed independent contractors to do that for them, and to place safety compliance obligations squarely with their contractors through appropriate language in the construction agreements.