New Ordinance in Boston: OSHA Violators May Not Get Permits

Mayor Walsh has filed an ordinance that will allow the City of Boston the right to “deny, revoke or suspend a permit for work in Boston based on an applicant’s work safety history.” (

“We know how dangerous work sites can be, and in Boston we are committed to doing all we can to protect those working in our city,” said Mayor Walsh. “I urge the City Council to move quickly on this proposal so Boston can put these changes into effect immediately.”

This will affect every individual, corporation, or business entity that applies for a permit to perform work in Boston. Once the City Council approves the ordinance, it will go into effect immediately.

By limiting bad actors’ ability to work within the city, Mayor Walsh will be a significant step to improve worker safety in Boston.

Once the ordinance is effective, all applicants for permits must inform the city officer in charge of issuing the permit about all OSHA violations the applicant has received, whether current or resolved.

Currently the City of Boston is not notified of OSHA violations during the permitting process. However, anyone can check the violation history of any company using OSHA’s establishment search. This is an internal OSHA tracking system made available to the public, so entries are updated as investigations are completed. 

General contractors would be well advised to use OSHA’s establishment search when hiring subcontractors for work anywhere, but particularly in Boston.

That is not to say that a history of a single OSHA violation will prevent an applicant from getting a permit to work in the city, however it is a way to promote and reward work to those companies who are committed to safe work practices.

This is not only good news for workers, but for companies who are undercut by competitors who do not invest in worker safety and cut corners that put workers at risk. Hopefully, with this measure, these bottom-of-the-barrel companies will be weeded out of Boston.

Mayor Walsh’s action was, in part, prompted by the death of two Atlantic Drain Service workers, Kevin Mattocks and Robert Higgins, who were killed in October while working in a trench on Dartmouth Street in Boston.  Atlantic Drain Service has had several OSHA violations within the past year, as well as a history of violations ranging from serious to willful.

On September 28, two days after Atlantic Drain Service received approval to run a new sewer line under Dartmouth Street, the City of Boston told them they would not be able to receive permits for new work because the company had fallen so far behind on paperwork and inspections.

Atlantic is also facing lawsuits for unemployment contributions to the state and tax liens. Employees reported paychecks bouncing, and neighboring business owners reported foul odors emanating from a lot where Atlantic dumps sludge.

Unfortunately for Kevin Mattocks and Robert Higgins, this measure comes too late. However it will help to prevent tragedies like this from happening in Boston in the future.