Accident Spotlights Need for Contract Rule Changes

March 31, 2013

On April 8, 2011, six workers employed under a federal contract were disposing of fireworks at a storage facility in Waipahu, Hawaii, when a large explosion occurred, killing five and injuring the sixth. These fireworks had been confiscated by U.S. customs agents because they were commercial grade but were mislabeled as less hazardous, consumer-grade fireworks.

As a member of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, an independent federal agency charged with investigating chemical and industrial accidents, I am disturbed by the lack of regulatory oversight and industry standards covering the handling and disposal of hazardous materials, such as contraband fireworks.

It is even more concerning that federal contracting regulations do not specifically require contracting officers to consider safety-related criteria and qualifications when determining the specific “responsibility” of prospective contractors and subcontractors.

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