Contractor’s Guide for Stop Work Orders

Contractor's Guide for Stop Work Orders

As a contractor, you know that dealing with tight margins and schedules is always a challenge. But even when you do everything right, sometimes things outside your control can cause big problems. A minor building code violation can force a stop work order, leading to extended timelines, expensive penalties, and more customer frustrations. Of course, no one ever expects a stop work order to come down the pipeline, but when it does, it can be a major headache for contractors. In this article, we’ll discuss what stop work orders are and why they happen. We’ll also share some tips on dealing with them and ensuring that your project stays on track. 


What is a Stop Work Order in Construction?

A stop work order (SWO) is a legally binding instruction issued by a local building department or code enforcement agency that requires work on a construction project to stop immediately. While the order can be given through word of mouth, it’s only enforceable when confirmed in writing. 

Stop work orders apply to any project with a written contract; however, they’re more common in the construction industry. Once an SWO is issued, the contractor managing the project should cease all project-related activities immediately.


Common Reasons for a Stop Work Order

When a project fails to comply with the building code, the local authorities can issue a stop work order. This order also helps resolve payment disputes, reduce the extent of damage in breach of contract, and correct other safety hazards. 

There are many reasons for a stop work order, but some of the most common include: 

  • Failure to comply with workers’ compensation regulations.
  • Violating environmental protection laws regarding the use of hazardous materials.
  • Failing to comply with OSHA standards and regulations.
  • Not having the proper permits or licenses for the work being performed.
  • Using unlicensed/fake contractors.
  • Failure to follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act by OSHA.
  • Performing activities that are considered illegal according to regulations.


What Does a Stop Work Order Entail?

A stop work order will detail the specific reason(s) for the work stoppage and what needs to be done to remedy the situation. The order will also state when work can resume on the project. With that said, here’s what you can expect to find in the document:

  • Details of the suspended activities. It could either be just a section or the entirety of the project.
  • Clear and concise instructions on the necessary corrections needed to be applied. For example, the authorities can order a contractor to obtain a permit for renovation work before continuing.
  • When the work stoppage will be lifted, or when work can resume on the project.
  • Signatures of the relevant officials.
  • Resolution: the stop work order should also provide the steps for work resumption if the contractor can make the necessary corrections and requirements to resolve the issue.
  • Termination: If it seems like no amount of work can fix the problem, the authorities may choose to terminate the project completely. The SWO should outline the steps for termination.
  • The SWO should explain the corresponding penalties for noncompliance. They could include consequences such as civil fines, prosecution, contract termination, and others.


What Should You Do When You Receive an SWO?

A stop work order may cause unnecessary delays and possible prison time for legal noncompliance. You wouldn’t want to spend time-fighting legal battles for money that could’ve been more useful in your project. With that said, here’s what you should do when you get a stop work order:

  • It’s important to note that a stop work order is not a request—it’s an order. You must legally stop work immediately once you’ve received the SWO.
  • Read and understand the order completely. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.
  • Comply with the order and make the necessary corrections. Depending on the severity of the violation, this could take a few hours or days.
  • Determine the cost and extent of the necessary work to make the corrections. From there, you can decide whether to continue with the project or if termination makes more sense.
  • Create a work plan to fix the issues. 
  • Start the process of work resumption by following the steps in order. This could include applying for the proper permits or licenses, hiring a new contractor, and more.
  • Once you’ve made the required changes, notify the authorities that issued the SWO so they can inspect your work. If satisfied, they will lift the order, and you can resume work on your project.


Use DATAMYTE to Better Manage Contracts and Work Orders

The best way to not deal with a stop work order is to instill workflows that will help avoid them in the first place. DATAMYTE’s quality management software offers a complete view of your manufacturing process so you can identify issues early on and prevent them from happening again.

The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is a workflow automation software that will help you create workflows focused on quality and compliance. With the Digital Clipboard, you can:

  • Create contracts and work orders with all the necessary information, such as deadlines, materials, and more.
  • Share the contracts and work orders with your team members, so everyone is on the same page.
  • Track the progress of each contract and work order so you can identify potential issues early on.
  • Get real-time insights into your manufacturing process to optimize your workflow and prevent issues from happening again.


With the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you will have a much easier and more convenient time navigating every SWO-related issue and managing work orders, inspections, contracts, and other similar workflows between the field and the office.

Try DATAMYTE now and see how our Digital Clipboard can help you manage work orders and contracts more effectively! Book a demo now and see how DATAMYTE can help you with your specific needs.



Stop work orders can be a nightmare for contractors, but with the right knowledge and tools, you can avoid them entirely. Instead, comply with the order and make the necessary corrections so you can get back to work as soon as possible.

While stop work orders can be a hassle, they’re important to ensure the safety of both workers and the general public. We hope this guide has helped us understand what stop work orders are and how to deal with them.



Related Articles: