GAO Recommends More Safety Scrutiny for DOD Contractors

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If the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has its way, construction contractors and subcontractors working for the Department of Defense (DOD) may be subject to more safety performance scrutiny.

In February, the GAO filed a report with Congressional committees titled, "Defense Contracting: Enhanced Information Needed on Contractor Workplace Safety."

According to the GAO, safety information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the contractors and subcontractors working for the DOD provides information on their overall safety performance, "but available data does not allow a determination of whether these violations occurred during work on a DOD contract, because OSHA inspection data do not include that information."

Between 2013 and 2017, according to the GAO, a review of 192 defense contractors and subcontractors working for the DOD found 108 of them had been inspected by OSHA or a state agency, 83 of them had been cited for at least one safety or health violation, 52 of them had been cited for at least one serious safety or health violation, and three of them had been cited for at least one repeated safety or health violation.

In light of these statistics, the GAO believes some changes need to be made.

"Some DOD contracts, including some in the manufacturing and construction industries, involve work that can be dangerous, and questions have been raised about working conditions for these workers," the GAO report states. "The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 includes a provision for GAO to review issues related to the safety and health records of DOD contractors."

The GAO recommends to the DOD that the Secretary of Defense should advise contracting officials about using the OSHA website as a resource for contractors' workplace safety and health records, and it recommends to the DOD that the Secretary of Defense should explore the feasibility of requiring a safety performance rating for contracts in industries that have relatively high rates of occupational injuries, including construction.

The DOD has agreed with both of these recommendations.

The GAO also made one recommendation to OSHA that the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health should explore the feasibility of requiring a corporate identification number in its inspection databases so its website can be searched by that number.

To date, OSHA has neither agreed nor disagreed with this GAO recommendation.

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