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GAO report highlights safety issues at DOD construction sites

Construction workers have very dangerous jobs, but construction sites in North Carolina and around the country have become safer in recent years thanks to stricter regulations, advances in safety equipment and steps taken by developers to reduce workplace accidents and injuries. However, a study published recently by the Government Accountability Office suggests that construction workers hired by companies that win Department of Defense contracts may not be receiving the benefits of these developments.

The GAO report merits attention because the DOD awards more than $300 billion in construction contracts every year that provide jobs for thousands of workers across the country. The GAO researchers studied the safety records of 192 construction companies that won DOD contracts between 2013 and 2017, and they discovered that 52 of them were cited for serious safety violations a worrying 195 times. These safety lapses cost four construction workers their lives and left a further 24 seriously injured.

The report does not reveal how many of these violations were found on DOD worksites because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not collect corporate identification numbers during inspections. This information would link the company performing the work with the organization paying for it. In addition to urging OSHA to begin gathering this information, the GAO report advises the DOD to consider safety ratings more carefully when awarding construction contracts.

Construction workers who are injured in on-the-job accidents will generally be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but complex paperwork can make the claims process confusing and frustrating. Attorneys familiar with the procedure could help injured or sick workers gain access to the benefits they are entitled to by assisting them with the required documentation and ensuring that it is supported by compelling and relevant medical evidence. Attorneys might also argue on behalf of injured workers if their claims are challenged and they are called to appear at a workers' compensation hearing.

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