Subcontractors for construction and logging

This section will clarify some of the commonly asked questions in the construction and logging industries for the Personal Labor and 6-Part Test (7-Part for construction). Please review these tests on our main Independent Contractor page before reading this section to ensure you understand the full context. These scenarios apply to any independent contractor relationship but are most often seen for construction or logging businesses.

Heavy costly specialized equipment

Subcontractors who meet this part of the exception test bring more than ordinary hand tools to the job and you are not directing or controlling their work. When deciding if your subcontractor meets this criteria, you want to consider whether the tool itself, at its most basic level of operation, requires specialized knowledge to operate. Tools that meet this exception often require a special license or education to operate. Any tools that the a person could rent or buy at a hardware store and use for home projects are rarely if ever going to meet this exception.

  • Examples that do meet this part of the test:
    • A contractor brings and operates earth-moving equipment to clear a house site.
    • A contractor brings an on-site rain gutter-manufacturing machine and both fabricates and installs the gutters.
    • A medical technician brings an MRI-equipped truck and operates the MRI machine.
    • Fulfilling the job requires both the contractor’s costly
      equipment (such as CNC machine, ultrasound) and their expertise in operating it.
  • Examples that don’t meet this part of the test:
    • A landscape contractor brings a chain saw and a lawn mower to maintain a yard.
    • A painting contractor brings ladders and safety harnesses to paint a three-story home.
    • A framing contractor brings power tools, including a nail gun, circular saw, and power drill to construct a shed.
    • A flooring installer brings flooring materials in a van to the job site. (Note: This example comes from a significant Washington State Superior Court of Appeals case.)

Supervising the work of subcontractor’s employees

If you contract with someone who brings their own
employees to perform the work and you are not directing or
controlling this work, then that person is not your employee.
However, for contracts where you are supervising, coordinating, or directing the employees of the subcontractor, they
are your covered workers.

Note: Your subcontractors are responsible for their own
employees. Make sure they are registered as employers with
L&I and are current with workers’ compensation premiums.
If not, you will be held responsible for unpaid premiums. For
more information, refer to Avoid Liability for Your Subcontractor’s Unpaid Workers’ Comp Premiums (Publication F262-262-000)

Materials vs tools

When you are subcontracting out work on a construction site, it is common that as the prime contractor you will be supplying materials like paint, drywall, and roofing tiles. Materials are not a form of direction and control. However, supplying tools controls how your subcontractors perform the work, which is considered a form of direction and control. If you provide tools, your subcontractors may be covered workers.

Work done by multiple contractors

Direction and control exists when you coordinate between subcontractors working alongside your employees or when you coordinate between multiple subcontractors working alongside each other.
Here are some examples:

  • If you have multiple interior painting subcontractors working on the same building and the same floor, you are coordinating who goes where, when, and settle any disputes or logistics; this is direction and control and your subcontractors may be covered workers
  • If you have multiple painting contractors working on different buildings or different floors of the same building (where they are solely responsible for that floor), they have no need to coordinate, so there is no direction and control.


As the prime contractor if you have one of your employees supervising the work of your subcontractors, this is direction and control and your subcontractors may be covered workers.

Jobsites are places of business

Any jobsite is considered your place of business for the duration of your work as the prime contractor if you have ownership interest in that jobsite. Any subcontractors who are working on the jobsite are working at your place of business. This is important when you are reviewing the 6-Part Test (7-Part for Construction) as there are several questions that pertain to place of business.