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Stop Work Orders: What They Are – And How to Avoid Getting One

Stop Work Orders: What They Are – And How to Avoid Getting One

Organizing and managing construction is a complex job. It is a delicate balance getting the right materials, workers, and machines on-site at the right time. 

Ensuring a project stays on time, under budget, and safe is an expansive undertaking, whether for construction, civil infrastructure, or other general jobs. General contractors and other site managers are responsible for managing all these aspects.

Part of that work is managing required paperwork like contracts, permits, and certifications. Whether you are new to the profession or are an experienced construction manager or general contractor, you have likely heard of a Stop Work Order.


Stop Work Orders: What They Are 

Typically issued by a government agency, inspector, or project owner, Stop Work Orders are a specific legal tool that can be used to immediately halt a defined set of work on a construction site. A Stop Work Order may mean just a particular section of the project needs to halt, or they can encompass the entirety of current work; as such, Stop Work Orders are a big deal.

Some typical reasons for a Stop Work Order (SWO) being issued include:

  • Missing proper permits for work from the applicable city, state, or federal agencies
  • Failing safety inspections or health code violations
  • Deviations from contract requirements
  • Updates to required engineering components or design
  • Payment disputes between project owners and any contractors

Once a SWO has been issued, work must halt and cannot resume again until the instigating issue is resolved and all parties come to an agreement on proceeding. Failure to respect a SWO can result in substantial fines if an inspector finds you in violation of an order.

Stop Worker Order Types

There are two types of Stop Work Orders: a full and a partial. The type you receive will depend on the severity and scope of the issuing reason.

1. Full Stop Work Orders 

Full Stop Work Orders are the most restrictive and will shut down work across the entire job site. Severe safety violations, financial concerns, lack of permitting, or large design and engineering updates are most likely to result in a full stop.

2. Partial Stop Work Orders 

Partial Stop Work Orders will only affect part of the job site so that some work can continue. This more targeted order will be given if an issue has occurred with a subcontractor, a safety concern is very specific to an area or piece of machinery, or a design change is narrow in scope.

No matter if you receive a full or partial stop, the only work that you and your team can complete in that area must be to address the issue. 

How to Avoid Getting One

Your best bet to deal with a Stop Work Order is to avoid receiving one in the first place. Sometimes that is easier said than done, and the intricacies of every project mean everyone will face unique requirements and challenges. 

The key takeaways to avoid receiving a Stop Work Order are:

  • Know your contractual obligations and what can trigger a Stop Work Order
  • Research the permitting and code requirements for the work site
  • Hire subcontractors you can trust to do the job right
  • Regularly review safety and health code implementations
  • Review what occurs on-site and take your own action if you find something falling out of line

What to Do to Clear a Stop Work Order

As much as we want them to, any plan or project rarely goes exactly to plan. Mistakes, oversights, and unforeseen events can all creep up and, in some instances, result in a citation or Stop Work Order. The most important thing is to address the concerns outlined. Stop Work Orders are not issued without reason, and it is best to address any issues before they get worse in construction. 

When you receive a Stop Work Order, you generally have the following steps to clear or lift the work restriction:

  • Correct the violation or order reason: Whether you are directly responsible or a subcontractor is at fault, it is your responsibility to ensure that the issue is addressed in a timely manner. This step can range from obtaining proper permits, upgrading safety compliance, or re-doing work that isn’t up to code.
  • Pass inspection or come to an agreement with the issuing party: Once you are certain you’ve addressed the issue, it is time to request reinspection by the issuing agency. Expect them to be very thorough as they inspect your site and work.
  • Pay any required fees: Once you have passed the re-inspection, if you accrued any fees, fines, or penalties, your final step will be to pay those off.

The more responsive you are to addressing a Stop Work Order, the quicker you can get back to work and back on track to finish the job. Waiting for inspections or follow-up meetings can take time, so tackling what you can as quickly as possible will help save your project timeline.

And throughout the process, make sure you are documenting all expenses and communications.

Crane Operation Experts in the Carolinas

No matter the job, using the right tool makes all the difference. Make sure you select a crane and company that fits your job site requirements for the safest and most effortless experience. Parker's Crane provides quality crane rental, rigging, and heavy hauling services throughout the Carolinas and the East Coast. 

We pride ourselves on safety and our Zero Accident Philosophy and conduct many detailed safety measures when performing a job to ensure that no project carries unnecessary risk. With over 40 years of moving and operating cranes, Parker’s Crane Service has the expertise you need for safe, reliable crane operations, no matter the season or weather.

Our team will work with you on the project, from pre-planning on-site assessments through the project's conclusion. You aren't just getting equipment when renting a crane through us. We provide the following benefits and services to our customers.

  • Site hazard analysis and daily risk assessments
  • A well-maintained fleet with transportation to the site
  • Help to navigate permitting, certification, and safety requirements
  • All of our operators, riggers, and signal persons are OSHA-qualified personnel
  • 24/7 Emergency service

Whether you only need us for a few hours or a month, contact us today to discuss your construction project. We provide free on-site quotes, and our dedicated team stands ready to help provide you with any assistance in selecting the crane and crew for your job.