Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2014

Currently: 43° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Dina Titus introduces worker safety oversight bill

Image

Richard Brian / File photo

The CityCenter project is shown in May 2008, shortly after an ironworker died after falling 59 feet through a hole in a floor. An OSHA-required backup deck or netting was not in place at the time.

Sun Topics

Dina Titus

Dina Titus

Rep. Dina Titus introduced a bill this morning that would give the federal government more flexibility in its oversight of state workplace safety programs.

The reform legislation is important to Nevada because of the state's poor track record when it comes to keeping workers safe on the job -- and follows House hearings last year on the failings of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A Labor Department report last year painted the workplace safety agency as incompetent and ineffective in the wake of a deadly building boom.

The federal probe examined the agency’s oversight of 25 workplace deaths in the state over an 18-month period. It found the state’s staff ill-equipped to investigate accidents and administrators unwilling to impose hefty penalties on companies.

At stake: Nevada’s control over the workplace-safety program. Nevada is one of 22 states operating such a program, which is supposed to protect private and public employees. The federal government shoulders the responsibility in all other states.

Federal OSHA has required the state to make changes to its program. But under current law, federal officials have only one option if the state fails to improve: terminate the state workplace-safety plan and take over. Titus called such a measure a "drastic step that would ... leave state and local government employees unprotected" and put the Labor Department on the hook for federal funding.

Titus' bill, dubbed the Ensuring Worker Safety Act, would create "a formal mechanism" to allow federal OSHA to step in, identify problems with state programs and exercise oversight without stripping states of day-to-day control.

The legislation would also establish a regular General Accountability Office audit of both state programs and the Labor Department's oversight.

The actions follow the Sun’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series last year that examined Strip construction deaths and exposed the failures of government, management and labor unions to protect workers.

“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 statement. “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.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

No trusted comments have been posted.