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Maryland Lawmakers Should Require Companies to Meet Safety Standards on State Public Works Projects

Feb. 9, 2015

Maryland Lawmakers Should Require Companies to Meet Safety Standards on State Public Works Projects

Note: At 1 p.m. on Feb. 24, the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on H.B. 404. The Maryland Senate will hold a hearing on the companion bill, S.B. 279, at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26. This legislation will set certain worker safety and health requirements on Maryland’s publicly funded construction projects. Keith Wrightson, worker safety and health advocate at Public Citizen, will testify in favor of the measures at both hearings.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Maryland Legislature should better protect state construction workers by passing bills that would require contractors to meet minimum safety standards when working on large, publicly funded projects in the state, Public Citizen said today.

The measures were introduced last week in response to recommendations by a state-sanctioned workgroup that came about because of Public Citizen.

S.B. 279 (with 16 sponsors) was introduced by Maryland State Sen. Karen Montgomery (D-14). H.B. 404 (with 21 sponsors) was introduced by Maryland Delegate Benjamin Barnes (D-21). The bills are a result of findings by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) Workgroup on Public Works Contractor Occupational Safety and Health Prequalification Requirements (DLLR Workgroup), which was composed of labor, industry, public interest and governmental officials. The workgroup suggested that the General Assembly move forward with legislation to protect construction workers on public projects valued above $100,000.

During Maryland’s 2014 legislative session, lawmakers passed H.B. 951, which created the DLLR Workgroup, in which Public Citizen was a participant. H.B. 951 was inspired by a 2012 Public Citizen report that showed construction 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.

Currently, Maryland screens construction companies to ensure that they meet standards on past performance, bonding capacity and legal proceedings. But the state does not consider a company’s safety record, training programs or site safety plan when awarding contracts.

“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.”

“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,” Barnes added.

Under the new legislation, before being granted state contracts, construction firms would provide, among other things:

  • A sworn statement of the contractor’s commitment to safety on the project;
  • The contractor’s methods for preventing and controlling occupational safety and health hazards on the project; and
  • The contractor’s methods for communicating information to and training employees on issues related to occupational safety and health hazards on the project.

For contracts greater than $100,000, the winning contractor and its subcontractors also would submit a safety questionnaire designed to examine the contractor’s prior safety performance, including the number of serious and repeat OSHA citations.

“The Maryland Legislature should 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. “These bills are a huge step forward that will create real protections for workers while also greatly reducing the state’s economic burden.”