At least 10 companies with prior records of workplace safety violations have received millions in federal stimulus contracts in one state.
Some of the companies didn’t disclose previous violations as required. Now the Massachusetts Highway Division is demanding written explanations from at least 7 companies awarded contracts as to why they didn’t reveal the violations on forms they submitted to obtain bidding approval for state projects.
The situation came to light after a review by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University.
Example: Liddell Brothers of Halifax, MA, received a $2.6 million stimulus contract. OSHA had cited the company four separate times since 2007 for failing to provide cave-in protection for workers in trenches. Liddell paid $46,580 in OSHA fines.
Former OSHA administrator Charles Jeffress said companies with repeat or willful safety violations should not get state contracts. In 2007, Liddell was issued a willful violation.
Liddell attorney Robert Lizza said in an e-mail that because the company immediately abated the hazards, paid its fines and the issue didn’t progress to a formal proceeding, as stated in the application form, Liddell didn’t disclose the violations.
The key question on the form asks contractors to report “any civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings involving public contracts, safety, environmental laws, or regulations” for the previous 3 years.
The Highway Division’s administrator said it doesn’t have enough staff to verify the accuracy of the information provided by contractors. The agency has threatened to refer the contractors in question to the state attorney general’s office for making false claims on the applications.
What do you think? Should contractors be barred from receiving government contracts if they have been issued a willful safety citation in the previous 3 years? Does abatement wipe the slate clean? Let us know in the Comments Box below.