General Assembly Signs Bill to Explore Occupational Safety and Health Prequalification for Public Projects
April 18, 2014
For the second straight year, the Maryland General Assembly considered a bill, which, if passed and signed by the Governor, would add a new title to the State Finance and Procurement Article entitled “Procurement – Occupational Safety and Health Prequalification”. In the 2013, the bill died in committee and never reached the Governor’s desk. However, in the 2014 Session, the General Assembly re-wrote the bill, deferring the issue for more consideration by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (the “DLLR”) and construction industry leaders.
On February 15, 2014, Delegates McHale, Barkley, Barnes, Braveboy, Burns, Carr, Clagett, Frick, Glenn, Hucker, A. Kelly, K. Kelly, Love, Luedtke, Mizeur, Niemann, Olszewski, S. Robinson, Rosenberg, V. Turner, Vaughn, and Zucker introduced HB 951 (cross-filed with SB 774) which, like its 2013 counterpart, would have required the DLLR to develop and adopt a safety questionnaire and safety rating system that would be used to evaluate the safety history and policies of contractors and subcontractors that perform work on construction projects for the State of Maryland and for local governments throughout the State. Click here to view the original text of HB 951. Under the bill, at least once a year, contractors and subcontractors would have been required to provide the DLLR with answers to the DLLR’s safety questionnaire along with supporting documentation. Pursuant to the original version of HB 951, the DLLR would have been required to create a safety rating system and evaluate the contractors and subcontractors based on the safety rating system. Under the original language of the bill, the DLLR would also have been required to create and publish a list of prequalified bidders based on the results of its safety evaluation. The original language of the bill also would have precluded non-prequalified contractors from bidding on public work in the State of Maryland. Additionally, under the original language, a contractor would be unable to utilize a subcontractor that is not on the prequalification list.
The House Economic Matters Committee completely overhauled HB 951 by deleting the substantive provisions that required the DLLR to institute the questionnaire and pre-qualification system. In its place, the Economic Matters Committee proposed alternate language in an amendment that, in effect, deferred the implementation of the system for another day, and would require the DLLR to develop a “workgroup” composed of representatives from industry leaders to: “(1) analyze the potential effects of the public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements proposed in Senate Bill 774 and House Bill 951 of 2014, as the bills were originally introduced; (2) study the effectiveness of public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements that exist in other jurisdictions in the United States; (3) study the requirements and practices currently used by units in the State to evaluate public works bids and offers to ensure contractor adherence to safety standards; and (4) make recommendations regarding the establishment of public works contractor occupational safety and health prequalification requirements in the State.” The “workgroup” would include representatives from Associated General Contractors, Associated Building Contractors, American Society of Safety Engineers, Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL–CIO, Alliance for Construction Excellence, and other interested groups. Ultimately, HB 951 was amended by both houses and passed. As of the date of this writing, HB 951 awaits the signature of Governor O’Malley. Click here to view the amended bill that ultimately passed.