Alexandra Berzon, Las Vegas Sun reporter

Las Vegas Sun Wins Pulitzer for Construction Safety Coverage

The Las Vegas Sun won the Pulitzer Prize for public service today for its coverage of workers' safety during the construction of large casino projects on the city's famed Strip. The newspaper posted news of the victory this afternoon and said only one other Nevada newspaper, the Reno Evening Gazette and Nevada Journal (now the Reno Gazette-Journal), has won newspaper journalism's highest award -- in 1977 for editorials written about the Mustang Ranch brothel.

The Pulitzer Web site said the Sun's prize was "awarded to the Las Vegas Sun, and notably the courageous reporting by Alexandra Berzon, for the exposure of the high death rate among construction workers on the Las Vegas Strip amid lax enforcement of regulations, leading to changes in policy and improved safety conditions."

Multiple deaths, mainly from falls, plagued the CityCenter and Cosmopolitan construction sites, and the Sun's coverage exposed Nevada OSHA's inadequate enforcement. Construction workers finally walked off the job en masse June 3, 2008, to protest the conditions, prompting an agreement to have CPWR, the Center for Construction Research and Training assess safety culture with help from an expert team from NIOSH and university researchers from Colorado State University, the University of Illinois, and West Virginia University.

Four reports ultimately resulted from the August 2008 site visit; those reports and CPWR recommendations are discussed in a June 2009 Occupational Health & Safety feature article and can be found at CPWR's Web site.

Perini Building Company, general contractor on both projects, has accepted the recommendations and is in the process of providing OSHA-10 training to all of the approximately 11,000 workers currently employed at both projects by the middle of this year.

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