Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill this week that would require companies to meet safety standards as a prequalification for working on public projects in the state.
Currently, Maryland screens construction companies to ensure that they meet standards on past performance, bonding capacity and legal proceedings. But the state does not yet consider a company’s safety record before awarding contracts.
A 2012 report by advocacy group Public Citizen showed safety shortfalls cost the state $712.8 million between 2008 and 2010. During that time, Maryland recorded 18,600 construction industry accidents, of which 11,000 required days away from work or job transfer. Additionally, 55 construction-related fatalities were reported in those years.
“Taxpayer dollars should go only to contractors who safeguard their employees from dangerous work conditions,” Montgomery said. “The state needs to look at the health and safety records of public works contractors as a part of the bidding process. It’s just common sense.”
Added McHale: “This legislation will ensure that taxpayer-funded projects are carried out only by contractors who provide adequate safety training and a plan for site safety.”
Under the proposal, before being granted state contracts, construction firms would have to demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors, and that they do not have serious safety violations.
The legislation would require all companies that bid for public works contracts to provide information about the frequency with which their employees suffer injuries, whether the companies have violated any safety and health laws, and what citations and penalties they have been subject to from occupational safety and health agencies.
“The legislature can help reduce worker injuries by requiring safety standards for companies funded on the public’s dime,” said Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate for Public Citizen. “It’s a huge step forward that will create real protections for workers while also greatly reducing the state’s economic burden.”