Stop Work Order (SWO): All You Need To Know

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When a DOB inspector notices unsafe work or circumstances on a property, he or she will issue a Stop Work Order (SWO). While a Stop Work Order might be issued in conjunction with a violation, SWOs are more commonly viewed as complaints in the DOB’s system.

Stop Work Orders can be complete (all work is restricted, save for remedial work required to make the site safe) or partial (some work is permitted) (targeting specific types of work or work in a specific area of the site). At the moment of issuance, the type of Stop Work Order is documented.

In this article, we’ll be defining Stop Work Order and every other thing you need to know about this restraining order.

What Is A Stop Work Order?

A Stop Work Order (SWO) is a contractual legal mechanism used by project owners, inspectors, and government agencies to protect safety and lessen the impact of contract violations. When a stop-work order is issued, the project’s impacted portions must be shut down until the situation is resolved and all parties concerned have reached an agreement.

An SWO can be issued for anything that violates the contract’s terms, from health code infractions to payment concerns with subcontractors. All of them should be regarded seriously and addressed as soon as feasible.

Mistakes are bound to occur. It’s natural to make mistakes, and things don’t always go as planned. It’s always better to stop problems before they grow worse, and this is especially true in building and contractor projects.

According to, a stop-work order (SWO) is a legally binding directive that instructs a contractor to halt all work on a project. The command may be given orally, but it is only valid if it is affirmed in writing.

Stop work orders can be used on any project with a signed contract, but they’re more popular in construction. When the order is issued, the contractor must immediately stop all project-related activity.


Reasons For A Stop Work Order

SWOs can be put on your construction at any time and can come from a variety of places. A project owner, site manager, developer, contractor, or government agency inspector may issue them. This is done for both parties’ advantage, in order to ensure contract compliance and, most importantly, safety.

According to, a stop work order is usually used to reduce the risk of injury on the construction site by creating a healthy work environment. They are used to put an end to dangerous work conditions and ensure no health code violations continue. 

Here are a few reasons for a stop work order:

  • Failure to comply with workers’ compensation regulations
  • Using unlicensed contractors
  • Violating environmental protection laws or use of hazardous materials at the construction site
  • Failure to follow the Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Engineering changes
  • Any other activity considered illegal according to the regulations

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Types of Stop Work Order

Not all stop work orders require you to abandon the construction site completely, the authorities might issue any of the two types of SWO;

  • Partial SWO
  • Full SWO

1. Partial stop work order

This type of work order shuts down a portion of the job site, allowing other work to thrive. This is usually an option when there are issues with a certain contractor, a particular aspect of the design is modifying, or there are imminent safety issues that need addressing.

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2. Full stop work order

This type of order stops all the operations on the construction site. This usually arises when serious issues affecting the entire project like; engineering, finance, design, and others, need to be addressed.

Regardless of the type of SWO in place, the only work typically allowed to continue is restorative work to address the issue at hand. All other work must stop right away.

Examples of Stop Work Order In Action

Even the largest projects might be struck with an SWO due to a lack of legal work licenses and the avoidance of inspections.

Example 1

A million-dollar hotel restoration in Georgia was halted by a local county building division due to alleged construction work done without the proper licenses.

Example 2

The Department of Buildings in New York City shut down a number of construction projects that didn’t follow COVID-19 safety rules in mid-2020. Concerned citizens complained about incorrect social distancing, PPE violations, and a lack of respect for clean work surroundings. Within the first five days of their launch, the DOB issued 41 SWOs to building sites.

Example 3

The construction of an Atlanta recycling plant was been suspended after a judge issued a stop-work order due to a misunderstanding about which government entity had the jurisdiction to authorize the project.

If we look at the examples above, you’ll see that there are well-spelled reasons for every SWO placed on each of the construction sites.

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Are There Penalties For Not Complying With Stop Work Orders?

Ideally, SWOs are binding and you must adhere to them, whether it is a full or partial stop. Before work can resume on the site, the situation must be resolved. If you continue to work despite the work order, you will face a penalty that usually comes in form of a large fine.

For instance, in New York City, if your site receives a complete Stop Work Order and one of the trades continues to work, they will most likely be charged with a violation and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

The cost of the documentation and filing required to get the SWO lifted is not part of the money to be paid as penalties for consecutive offenses, which can approach $10,000 each.

How Can I Lift A Stop Work Order?

When work on a job site comes to a halt, everyone on the job suffers from project and payment delays. The offender should make every attempt to have the order lifted as quickly as feasible. These are the basic stages to lifting a stop work order notice:

1. Fix the violations

Correcting the problem is the first step in having an SWO lifted. If you’re the one who started the problem, take care of it right away. In a situation where your subcontractor is to blame, make sure they correct the problem and that you hold them accountable by back charging them if necessary.

If the SWO is the result of code non-compliance, you only have one choice: Even if it’s costly, redo the task. You must take adequate care of the situation.

If you’re cleaning up after another sub, you should probably seek a change order to account for your time and labor.

2. Request re-inspection from the issuing agency

Once the issue has been fixed, the next step to take is to request a re-inspection from the agency before the stop-work order is lifted.

At this moment, you’re at the mercy of the inspection agency. You’ll need to schedule an appointment with the inspector and wait for him to arrive. You can also expect a comprehensive examination.

3. Pay the stipulated fees

The violator must pay all appropriate fines and penalties after the inspector certifies the corrections. In some jurisdictions, determining appropriate fines and penalties may even necessitate a hearing.

Stop Work Order In Construction

In general, whether or not you’re subject to a Stop Work Order while working on a project is determined by your construction contract. If your contract has an SWO clause, the owner or an agent of the owner can issue an SWO for any of the reasons listed in the agreement.

In other words, if the inspector doesn’t like what they observe, an SWO can be issued. With a few exceptions, these guidelines apply to most cities.

According to levelset, a Stop Work Order is different from a Stop Notice, which is a tool used by contractors in the event that they are not paid. But they can be quite expensive, both in terms of penalties and a loss of time or payment.

FAQs On Stop Work Order

How do I cancel Stop Work Order in NYC?

The Department may require that you certify correction to any outstanding violations by submitting a Certificate of Correction to the Department’s Administrative Enforcement Unit. Pay any applicable civil penalties.

Why is Stop work Order issued?

SWOs are issued to protect workers, residents, the public, and buildings and properties.

Are there penalties for not complying with SWO?

If you continue to work despite the work order, you will face a penalty that usually comes in form of a large fine.

What are the types of stop-work orders?

There are two types of stop-work order; Partial SWO and Full SWO


Documenting your work and any correspondence is an important aspect of the Stop Work Order process. It forms the foundation for efficient communication, which aids in the protection of your bottom line.

Ensuring you maintain a comprehensive paper trail that includes all costs and processes to comply with the SWO is critical. Furthermore, documentation can be used to show that lower-level individuals were aware of the issue. This could help you avoid fines and penalties in the future. When it comes to reimbursement, proper paperwork may also play an important role.


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