U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

New OSHA Office in Vegas Applauded

The regional economy is weak and the city faces a big 2011 deficit, but an important new tenant is coming, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus announced. Meanwhile, contractor Perini Building Company took its fight public for $500 million it claims is owed by MGM/Mirage for the mammoth CityCenter project.

The regional economy is weak and the city of Las Vegas faces an $80 million 2011 deficit, but an important new tenant is coming to town: federal OSHA. U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., on Tuesday announced her support of the move, which is happening about a year after one of the local newspapers, the Las Vegas Sun, won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of fatalities and poor safety enforcement on large construction job sites along the famed Strip. Titus has been outspoken in her criticism of Nevada OSHA, which federal OSHA also criticized in a landmark October 2009 report.

Although the pace of construction has slowed and some casinos and area projects are now in bankruptcy, what turned the situation around for the biggest projects involved was retraining and renewed attention to effective management and a safe culture. Contractor Perini Building Company now has asked Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons to step into Perini's fight for $500 million it claims is owed by MGM/Mirage for one of those projects, the mammoth CityCenter.

"I welcome today's important announcement that Federal OSHA will open a much-needed office in Las Vegas," Titus said in a May 4 news release distributed by her congressional office. "It is clear from Nevada OSHA's record that it has let our workers down. A new office in the region will enable a stronger federal-state partnership that will improve training and support for Nevada OSHA without taking away state control."

There is no regional OSHA office in Nevada, according to the release, which said the state "has seen a tremendous growth in construction and an unacceptable increase in accidents and fatalities. This growth has led to demands on the state's infrastructure, including Nevada's safety and health resources, which have struggled to keep up with demand for services. OSHA's presence in Southern Nevada will improve services by providing more directed local support for enforcement, technical assistance, and compliance activities to reduce workplace injuries and death."

The OSHA report prompted Titus to introduce the Ensuring Worker Safety Act, which seeks to ensure state plans are at least as effective as federal enforcement while giving OSHA options other than withdrawing approval when it finds a state plan is performing poorly. "The tragic deaths of too many workers in Southern Nevada highlighted the need to ensure that state OSHA plans are doing their job of protecting workers,” Titus said. “Unfortunately, under current law, federal OSHA is left with only two options, both at the extreme end of the spectrum, when it finds state plans that are ineffective. This legislation provides OSHA with an important middle ground so it is not left with the choice of doing nothing or taking the drastic step of terminating a state plan.”

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