San Francisco Ramping up Background Checks for Construction Contractors

By Michael Klazema on 9/4/2018

Companies that bid for and win construction contracts with the city of San Francisco will soon be required to go through more thorough background checks than those that were previously required. Per a report from Construction Dive, the decision comes at the order of San Francisco Mayor London Breed following a recent deadly tunnel accident.

In early August, a construction worker was struck and killed by a steel beam in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks Tunnel. The worker was employed by Shimmick Construction, which won a city contract in February to renovate the city-owned light rail tunnel. The renovations involved replacing tracks and drainage systems among other updates and fixes.

The process for submitting bids and winning government contracts for construction work is already in-depth, both for local municipalities like San Francisco and at the federal level. Per coverage, companies applying for bids need to fill out vast quantities of paperwork. Among many other questions, construction companies are asked to provide details about their records for workplace safety.

According to the Construction Dive report, the bidding and contracting process for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency includes a questionnaire that asks construction companies to disclose whether they have “been cited by Cal-OSHA for any serious and willful citations in the previous ten years.” In its questionnaire, Shimmick allegedly answered “No” to this query. Cal-OSHA records indicate that Shimmick has been cited 39 times in the past decade. The company is currently in the process of appealing many of these citations, several of which relate to a 2016 forklift accident that resulted in the death of one employee.

Had the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency been aware of these citations, it may not have awarded the project bid to Shimmick Construction. Instead, it seems the agency mainly relied on an honor system, trusting potential contractors to disclose safety records and other details accurately and honestly.

Going forward, the department will be ditching the honor system in favor of a “trust but verify” approach. A spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said the department is “taking steps now to change the policy and ensure that we verify details in the pre-bid documents.” This verification process will include a look at contractors’ Cal-OSHA records.

At, we offer a service geared specifically toward entities like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. We can devise contractor and vendor screening solutions to meet the needs of agencies and organizations that rely on vendors and contractors to serve different work capacities. When contractors are involved, it’s not only important to research the background of the company, but also to require criminal screenings, work history verifications, and other checks for individual workers. At very least, organizations should ask the businesses they contract with to provide proof of employee background checks.

To learn more about the importance of background checks for contractors and vendors, read our whitepaper on the subject.



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