Nevada Fallout of a Different Kind

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., filed a bill March 16 that is a direct response to the worker fatalities along the Las Vegas Strip that brought a Pulitzer Prize to the Las Vegas Sun and a stinging OSHA report on the performance of Nevada OSHA. Titus, whose 3rd District includes Las Vegas, introduced her Ensuring Worker Safety Act and, being a member of the Education and Labor Committee, had a chance to discuss it with OSHA's chief, Dr. David Michaels, who was testifying in a subcommittee hearing about another bill.

Her bill, HR 4864, would empower OSHA to reform an underperforming state plan or wield concurrent enforcement while its deficiencies are fixed.

"The tragic deaths of numerous workers in Southern Nevada highlighted the need to ensure that state OSHA plans are doing their job of protecting workers," Titus said in a news release sent by her Washington, D.C., office. "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 the drastic step of terminating a state plan."

The bill would establish a formal procedure for OSHA to identify a problem with a state plan and require a remedy without beginning the process for withdrawing the plan's approval. It also would require a GAO review of existing state plans' effectiveness within 18 months after the bill is enacted and every five years thereafter, with these and other items assessed: effectiveness of DOL's oversight of the plans and whether the formula for distributing funding to the plans is fair and adequate. At least 20 percent of existing plans will be evaluated by examining their enforcement effectiveness, including handling of fatalities and serious incidents; how many inspections they conduct; their budget and staffing; their transparency; how discrimination complaints are handled; and how National Emphasis Programs are implemented.

Titus was both a political science teacher at UNLV and a state senator before winning her congressional seat, where she is in her first term. On the Education and Labor Committee, she serves on both the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education. Her news release said she realized OSHA "needs an additional option to work with states that are not meeting federal standards" after the agency issued its review of Nevada OSHA last October.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Mar 16, 2010

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