Shaken by the death of two construction workers killed in last month's trench collapse, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh wants the city to take a more aggressive role in vetting the safety records of private contractors.
“We’re going to look at past violations — when they were, how they were corrected and doing a more thorough background check,” said Walsh outside an event in Boston on Wednesday.
The ordinance, now being considered by the Boston City Council, would give the city the right to deny, revoke or suspend a permit for work in Boston and would require companies to swear and affirm their work safety history.
necn asked the mayor if anyone would be double-checking the company’s records and he responded that city officials would 'not be taking their word for it.'
“We’re going to have to check safety records. Anyone can come in and say anything and look good on the outside but be horrible on the inside,” Walsh said.
OSHA calls Atlantic Drain, the Boston company performing the trench work, a “serious violator” with a history of what they call willful safety violations that repeatedly put their employees at risk. In the days after the accident, necn investigates asked Walsh how Atlantic Drain got a permit in the first place. The mayor said the city didn’t have the resources to flesh out private companies’ safety histories.
necn asked the mayor what’s changed since then.
“We’re looking into what ability we have,” he said. “We weren’t set up that way. We didn’t have that responsibility. Now we’re looking at how do we change it to provide safer work sites within our power.”
At-large city councilor Michael Flaherty supports the ordinance, but says OSHA shouldn’t be off the hook.
“I think it is embarrassing that in 2016 we don't have OSHA taking any affirmative responsibility for notifying municipalities across the Commonwealth. Instead they sort of shrug their shoulders and direct you to go to their website,” Flaherty said.
An OSHA spokesman told necn that the agency does not weigh in on the permitting process and is generally not authorized to shut down a job site unless they see an imminent danger – even then they would need to get a court order. As for the trench collapse, OSHA is investigating as is the Suffolk County District Attorney.