Today, Center for Progressive Reform analyst Michael Patoka testified at a Maryland Senate Finance Committee Hearing in support of SB 774, which would require construction companies contracting with the state to be prequalified based on their worker health and safety performance measures.
The widely supported legislation would ensure unscrupulous employers do not receive contracts funded by taxpayer dollars.
In his testimony Patoka notes:
Currently, construction firms are screened on a number of factors prior to bidding, but worker-safety considerations are not included. As a result, agencies can easily end up financing companies that operate hazardous worksites and endanger Maryland workers. Indeed, the current system encourages firms to cut corners on worker safety, since by doing so they may be able to offer lower bids than their more responsible competitors and thus have a better chance at winning lucrative contracts.
The construction industry is responsible for a disproportionately high number of fatalities and injuries. From 2008 and 2010, between 25 and 33 percent of all workplace deaths in Maryland were in the construction industry, and each of those years saw between 5,800 and 6,900 construction-related injuries. These incidents impose unbearably high costs on individuals and families in Maryland, as well as burden the local economy. Between 2008 and 2010, construction deaths and injuries cost Maryland $712.8 million in medical services, lost productivity, administrative expenses, and lost quality of life. Public agencies are among the largest purchasers of construction services in Maryland, so they are in a unique position to improve worker protections through the use of their considerable buying power. The impact of this bill would reach far beyond public contracts, since any companies hoping to remain eligible for bidding would have to maintain a good safety record in all their work.
The prequalification system that this bill would establish is particularly well-designed. The bill instructs the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation to develop a standardized questionnaire and rating system. The Department would consult with a broad range of stakeholders, including unions, safety experts, and contractors, to ensure that the resulting system is fair and effective.
To read the testimony in full click here.