Contractor Safety and Health Prequalification Study Moving Through the House

A bill to study the effects of public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements is now moving through the House of Delegates. As introduced, HB 951 would have prohibited a contractor or subcontractor from bidding on a public works project with any public body in the State unless they had been prequalified as a bidder based on a safety rating system established by the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR). The bill was turned into a study after MACo and others raised concerns.

From MACo’s testimony on the bill:

This requirement would apply to all local government contracts whether or not State funds are provided. MACo is concerned that this approach would limit the number of qualified bidders and place more onerous requirements on local governments when procuring for projects, thereby increasing costs.

Of great concern to our local officials is the limiting effect HB 951 may have on small and minority contractors. Although larger companies may have staff to develop safety plans and monitor them, smaller companies may not be able to afford staff for this purpose. The administrative burden of this requirement could make it extremely difficult for a smaller contractor to comply, disqualifying the contractor from bidding altogether.

To address these concerns, HB 951 was turned into a study to examine the following: 1) the potential effects of a prequalification program; 2) the effectiveness of programs in other states; and 3) the current requirements and practices used to evaluate public works contractor safety.

HB 951 will pass third reader in the House today.  Its crossfile, SB 774 has not been voted by the Senate Finance Committee.