Companies praise new law on construction safety


Union and construction companies today praised a new law they said aims to create a culture of safety on local work sites and make construction workers safer.

The new bill, signed into law by Gov. Jim Gibbons on Wednesday, requires all construction workers and supervisors to attend health and safety course training within 15 days of being hired.

The bill, which was signed exactly a year after Perini Building Co. and the 17 affiliated unions of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council reached an agreement to end a 24-hour strike at CityCenter over safety concerns, requires construction workers to attend a 10-hour health and safety course. Supervisors will need to complete 30 hours of training.

The agreement that ended last year's CityCenter walkout included a provision that Perini would offer 10 hours of OSHA safety training to workers.

"This is important legislation that will have a meaningful impact in changing the culture on construction sites, and making workers safer," Building Trades Secretary-Treasurer Steve Ross said in a statement.

Ross also thanked Perini Building Co., general contractor on the CityCenter and Cosmopolitan projects, for its "cooperation on this bill," which becomes effective Jan. 1.

"It has been Perini's experience that mandatory OSHA-10 training strengthens construction workplace safety by both increasing worker knowledge and awareness of best safety practices," Dick Rizzo, vice chairman of Perini Building Co., said.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the law aims to create a culture of safety on construction sites where every person is responsible of everyone else's safety.

"We got a little bit away from that in our zeal to build quickly and build as many things as we could as fast as we could," Oceguera said. "Hopefully this will be a step in the right direction to have everyone recognize safety is the most important factor."

Assembly Bill 148 passed the Assembly by a vote of 39 to 3 before passing the Senate by a 20 to 0 vote last month.

Employees who fail to produce proof that they have completed the required training within 15 days of being hired must be suspended or terminated by their employer. Employers are subject to fines for failing to suspend or terminate those employees.

The safety course will be authorized by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Oceguera was a member of Assemblyуs Committee on Commerce and Labor, which drafted the billуs language. He was also part of a safety committee that was formed last January to discuss safety issues on local construction sites. The committee included officials from local government, the construction industry and labor unions.

The committee and the bill that Gibbons signed into law were driven by 12 construction deaths at construction projects along Las Vegas Boulevard. Between Dec. 5, 2006, and Jun. 16, 2008, six workers died at CityCenter, two died at the Cosmopolitan, and the Trump International, Fontainebleau, Palazzo and Echelon each had one fatality.

There have been no construction deaths on the Strip since last June when the Building Trades and Perini agreed to take safety improvements, including offering OSHA safety courses.

Steve Holloway, executive vice president of the Las Vegas chapter of Associated General Contractors, called the new law a step in the right direction and a good beginning.

Not all of the proposed bills that were to boost construction made it through the Legislature's just completed session.

Provisions in a proposed overhaul of the state OSHA were removed, including those that would have required contractors to submit proof of completion of safety and health training before the state Contractors' Board could renew a contractors' license and one requiring general and specialty contractors to have safety plans approved by OSHA.

"On the larger projects, those over $100 million, we need a safety plan prior to commencement of construction," Holloway said.

Holloway said the state OSHA also needs more funding so it can increase salaries to retain inspectors and trainers.

Another bill that would have made drinking while working on a construction project illegal never made it beyond the bill draft request stage.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

 

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