Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2018

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Improving safety

Federal task force should help Nevada OSHA make changes to protect workers

The U.S. Labor Department has convened a task force to review problems with the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

As Alexandra Berzon reported in Friday’s Las Vegas Sun, the task force’s study is an indication of the level of concern federal officials have with the way Nevada OSHA has handled the rash of workplace deaths here. The state has been rightly criticized for its lax oversight of safety.

The Sun’s reporting last year, which was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, exposed the poor culture of safety on Las Vegas Strip construction sites that led to 12 deaths over 18 months.

Federal OSHA officials have been to Nevada before to review the state workplace safety agency’s work but have had little luck making changes. Federal officials last year were troubled by how Nevada OSHA handled the investigation into the 2007 deaths of two workers at the Orleans.

In a letter to their Nevada counterparts, federal officials said the state should review its policies and procedures. Tom Czehowski, then the head of Nevada OSHA, rebuffed the request.

This time, however, things are different. There is a Democrat in the White House, the Labor Department is flexing its muscle and leadership in Nevada’s worker safety agency has changed. Czehowski has retired, as has his boss, Roger Bremner, who was the state Industrial Relations Division administrator.

Donald Jayne, the new head of the state Industrial Relations Division, said he hoped to form a close partnership with federal OSHA.

“We have the same mission,” Jayne said. “We all want to make sure we have safe workplaces in Nevada and around the country.”

Jayne said he hoped to get “valuable feedback” from the task force and said he would work to fix any problems the task force finds.

These are welcome words, but the state’s workers need more than words. We hope the task force and Jayne will move quickly to improve worker safety in Nevada.

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