Poor safety culture is a systemic issue for construction workers in Nigeria. Evidence suggests workers’ rights to safe work and dignity are abused frequently. Although extant Nigerian laws compel contractors to maximise work safety, media reports are rife with incidents of collapse of structures, site accidents and hazards. Fatalities, and consequential losses from these, are significant. In context, the Nigerian procurement law requires contractors to be pre-qualified before receiving contract awards. Through a systematic literature review (SLR), this study examines pre-award assessment processes and standards relating to contractors’ compliance with workers’ health and safety. In addition, pre-award assessment objectives are compared with normative objectives of health and safety standards during construction. A significant gap is found between the two: pre-award assessment is incapable of translating into considerable safety outcomes for workers and projects. As a result, a new framework for assessing contractors’ safety capability is proposed. The study also argues the significance of the proposed framework to extant pre-qualification frameworks used in Nigeria. Rather than being prescriptive, the framework can measure health and safety capabilities quantitatively. Conclusions are elicited from these on how to reform the Nigerian procurement landscape in terms of health and safety standards, and the cost benefits therefrom.