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Jul 31, 2014

Statement of Rafael Moure-Eraso, Chairperson of the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), on the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order

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I want to applaud the President for announcing earlier today his intention to issue the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order (EO).  This groundbreaking executive order will for the first time specifically require government contracting officers to consider a firm’s record of labor law violations – including those involving worker safety and health – as a factor in awarding federal contracts.  Many thousands of workers performing potentially hazardous work will be safer when this executive order is fully implemented.

On January 17, 2013, the CSB voted unanimously to approve an investigation report on a devastating accident that occurred in April 2011 during the performance of a federal seized-property management contract by Donaldson Enterprises, Inc. (DEI), in Hawaii.  A mass explosion and fire fatally injured five contract workers who were involved in the storage and disposal of contraband fireworks seized by federal officials.  The CSB determined that unsafe fireworks storage and handling practices by a marginally qualified contractor firm was the primary cause of this accident.  In addition, the larger prime contractor that supervised DEI had an inadequate system for ensuring that key safety requirements were either properly implemented or followed.

Among the CSB’s recommendations in the final report was the following to the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council:

“Establish an additional contractor responsibility determination requirement under Subpart 9.104-1 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) addressing contractor safety performance. The analysis under this requirement should focus on incident prevention, and environmental and system safety. At a minimum, the language should specifically require the review of a prospective contractor’s:

• Environmental and safety programs;

• Safety record and incident history;

• Ability to use safe methods for any work involving hazardous materials (including explosives); and

• Suitable training and qualifications for the personnel involved in the work including prior relevant safety experience.” 

The CSB makes recommendations based on the findings and conclusions of its investigations. Recommendations are made to parties that can affect change to prevent future incidents, which may include the company, contractors, industry organizations responsible for developing good practice guidelines, regulatory bodies, and/or organizations that have the ability to broadly communicate lessons learned from the incident, such as trade associations. 

I welcome the issuance of this executive order by the President, and I applaud his decisive action on a critical safety issue confronting far too many federal contractors.   It is a vital step toward encouraging positive behavior by those who perform, or seek to do, business with the federal government.

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