The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council has released its Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report (PDF link). This report contains some eyebrow-raising statistics. Between 2008 and 2014, Massachusetts was able to help over 50,000 workers receive coverage due to Stop Work Orders (SWOs). In 2014 alone the Agency was able to obtain insurance for over 5,000 workers who previously had no workers’ compensation coverage.
Stop Work Orders are issued to employers who are operating without workers’ compensation insurance. An investigator is sent to the worksite and if an order is issued, the employer must cease business operations immediately. Fines will then be given starting at $100 per day until penalties are paid and the company secures insurance.
In Fiscal Year 2014, there were 5,785 Field Investigations resulting in 2,150 SWOs issued and $1,430,599 in fines collected. While SWOs are in effect, employees are still paid for the first ten days out-of-work due to the order and the days missed are considered “days worked.” In addition to the fines that the employer receives, they will be added to a debarment list preventing them from bidding or participating in any state or municipal contracts for three years.
Original post on www.mass.gov/lwd/workers-compensation in April 2015.
A television station in Raleigh, North Carolina (NBC-17) reported the other week that a paving contractor was awarded a new contract because its bid was $6,000 lower than other bids. The bids ranged from $996,000 to $1.2 million. Nothing unusual about that, except the winning company, Triangle Grading and Paving Company, has “dozens more construction-related safety violations than the other companies.”
Last year two Triangle workers (Luis Gomez and Jesus Benitez) died when they entered a manhole that had unsafe levels of oxygen, and their deaths could have been avoided had the company conducted required testing before they entered the manhole.
Is it possible this company is able to out-bid other companies because they don’t take the time and expense to insure a safe workplace?
One legislator, Paul Luebke, says he intends to file legislation that will require local governments to take into account the safety records of any company bidding on a government contract. Would that change the way some companies enforce safety regulations? Would that create a more even playing field for competitive bids? We don’t know for sure, but one thing is certain: it we do nothing, we will never know.
If we truly care about safety and if we truly care about fair play in the marketplace, then every government contracting agency, from top to bottom, should adopt this policy.
More on the Triangle Grading and Paving story: