Contract Killers: Public Citizen Urges Government Agencies to Review Safety Records

March 30, 2012
Public Citizen wants local, state and federal government agencies to review the safety records of companies bidding for lucrative contracts before awarding those contracts to them.

In a new report, “Contract Killers,” Public Citizen highlights cases in which companies with suspect safety records win government contracts around the country, often with disastrous consequences.

“Taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on companies that expose their employees to dangerous work conditions,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen. “When government agencies fail to properly assess construction companies for health and safety performance, the results are not only expensive, but deadly.”

The report details how most government agencies either have no process for reviewing contractor health and safety performance or their procedures are inadequate. It calls on lawmakers to require agencies to consider a company’s safety violations and injury prevention practices before awarding contracts.

The report cited five cases in which government agencies awarded construction contracts to companies that demonstrated alarming health and safety problems:

  • Robinson Prezioso Inc., based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., was allowed to work on government projects for decades despite a long history of safety violations. While working on the Bay Bridge connecting San Francisco with Oakland, Calif., unsafe conditions maintained by the company led to deaths, injuries and lead poisoning. While working on a power plant in Colorado, the company’s inadequate precautions led to a fire that killed five workers. The corporation pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2011 for the fire.
  • Workers at Triangle Grading and Paving Inc., based in Burlington, N.C., died in a manhole of apparent suffocation due to a lack of oxygen. The city of Durham, N.C., awarded the company a sewer installation contract even as the company had been cited by OSHA more than 60 times for construction-related safety violations.

  • Bontrager Excavating, located in Uniontown, Ohio, repeatedly exposed workers to trenching hazards, which ultimately killed a worker on a Jackson Township, Ohio, sewer repair project.

  • Marksmen Co., located in Baltimore, was awarded a second government contract, despite multiple scaffolding violations from a previous contract that resulted in a worker being hospitalized with serious injuries after falling 15 feet when scaffolding collapsed.

  • Nicholson Drilling, located in Port Orchard, Wash., was hired by a public water district in Kitsap County, Wash., to drill a well, despite a record of safety violations and a worker fatality.

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