Constructor must Intervene in Case of Known Deficiencies

When you build yourself a house, many dangers and responsibilities will arise – usually more then expected and especially wished. This article will explore civil and penal consequences of an unsecured construction site.


Construction material, open shafts, shabby fences are signs of unsecured construction sites, which impose a danger to pedestrians. Supposing this danger realizes itself in an injury then penal and civil liabilities are immediately the topic.

This is what happened in the case of a trial at OLG Stuttgart (re 5 Ss 12/05): The sentenced builder had bought a hall, which was to be dismantled and reconstructed on his wine manor. As required by Bauamt (construction office), he employed a special firm to do this work. This company promised to supply all necessary safety equipments, like catching nets etc. However, this company showed up without catching nets or other safety precautions. The house builder asked the workers of the dismantling company, where the nets were only to receive the answer that they were not necessary and anyhow they never worked with them. The constructor accepted this, mainly because he did not want to delay the work. Falsely, as will be shown. Shortly after starting to dismantle, one of the worker slipped, fell into a pitch and died still on the site.

1. Civil Responsibility on Construction Sites

Who ever digs a pitch for somebody is likely to fall himself for it. This common saying has a lot of legal truth in it. If you install a dangerous site, like for construction, it is your personal obligation to make sure that nobody gets hurt. You have the duty to safeguard traffic or in German “Verkehrssicherungspflicht”. If this happens, you are generally liable for damages and injuries. Not like in other countries, you will never be “punished” with punitive damages. German law only requires you to reinstall the previous situation. This simply means you will have to pay for the hospital bill, damaged clothing, missed income, etc. In addition to that, you will have to pay “pain money”, as an extraordinary indemnification for the pains and hurts. The amount is a matter of the individual case and determined by case law. How to protect yourself? First of all, regularly monitor the construction sight and check that nobody can be harmed.

Assuming you hired a company to do the construction, why worry about this anymore? First of all this firm is working on your behalf, so that still you are indirectly creating a source of danger. Relating to this, your main responsibility in this case will be to monitor the construction company that it takes all care of securing the site. In case you do not pay attention then also you will be held liable. Actually, “also” blurs this situation. You, as the constructor, will always be addressed first.

2.  Penal Liability

Well, construction liability insurance might cover the risk of damages but never penal liability. The OLG Stuttgart (re 5 Ss 12/05) had to decide a case of negligent homicide for a worker on the construction site.

The court argued that since the constructor did not insist the workers to employ safety precautions even though he recognized the need, he knew that somebody might get hurt and accepted it. This is wanton negligence. Since he valued his personal ease like time losses, costs savings more than another person’s life, he is responsible for killing a person.

Published on the old CMS: 2006/12/21
Read on the old CMS till November 2008: 244 reads

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