Rise in construction deaths alarms many, but work goes on

Construction is a dangerous business. Accidents and fatalities occur at job sites every year despite the industry’s best efforts to prevent them. Eleven construction deaths have occurred in Southern Nevada this year alone, reports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Nevada Division.

“It’s very alarming what’s happening,” said Nicky Nolte, a local OSHA trainer. “We have seen an increase in deaths.”

On Aug. 9, for example, Harvey Englander died at MGM Mirage’s CityCenter development — a $7.4 billion, 18.6 million-square-foot mixed-use complex of residences, hotels and entertainment space on the Strip between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo. Englander, 65, was working on an elevator lift when he leaned over into the counterweight system and was cut in half, say Clark County Fire Department officials.

Englander was retired before he rejoined the labor force to work on the project.

CityCenter is the nation’s largest privately financed project, with 4,000 tradesmen on the job at any given time. The 76-acre, seven-building development will eventually see up to 7,000 tradesmen and 350 supervisory personnel during the peak of construction. CityCenter has had three deaths this year.

“We don’t like to see (accidents) happen, but with that many men at work and that much going on, accidents are going to occur,” said Steve Holloway, executive director of the Associated General Contractors, Las Vegas chapter. “Nearly 95 percent of accidents are caused by human error, by people doing what they are trained not to do.”

Construction safety has become a high-profile issue lately, particularly following Englander’s death and another fatality at a different construction project just several days before. On Aug. 2, three workers fell from a 30-foot-tall wall at the $2.9 billion Fontainebleau hotel-casino site at Rivera and Las Vegas boulevards. Norvin Tsosie, 36, died when his harness failed, dropping him into a 10-foot hole. The other two workers only sustained minor injuries. Four days later, Fontainebleau had another accident when three precast concrete twin tee fell from the top level of a seven-story parking garage. No one was injured.

Dwelling too much on what happens after an accident is almost blasphemy among some of the industry’s hard-core safety adherents. Contractors claim zero tolerance for safety risks and projects visibly promote their number of “accident-free” days. The idea of preparing for an accident seems to undermine that iron-clad commitment to safety.

“I’d rather talk about prevention,” replied one safety official who asked not to be named.

Yet job site accidents, injuries and deaths remain a fact of construction life, with annual U.S. fatality numbers stubbornly exceeding 1,000 since 1994.

Construction sites are inherently dangerous places, with a fluid environment of people constantly coming and going, including subcontractors, suppliers, and part-time help. Heavy machinery, designed to tear, cut, dig, lift and pull, operates around the clock. Workers, as a result, must communicate while maintaining a heightened awareness of their surroundings. It can be a tall order when performing physically demanding labor for 10 hours or more each day in 110-degree weather.

Safety is often handled differently from project to project depending on the contractor and owner. Many firms employ dedicated safety professionals to ensure secure working conditions through inspections, citations and routine meetings to review work hazards. Some companies even offer cash incentives or raffle prizes for accident-free work.

Accidents bring undesired publicity, slow construction progress and dampen worker morale. They can increase financing requirements and insurance premiums, making it more costly to do business.

A new program called the Incident and Injury-free movement, or IIF, seeks to create a zero-incident work site through a shared sense of responsibility and caring between labor and management. The 13-year-old idea developed by JMJ Associates, an Austin, Texas, professional consulting firm, is growing in popularity within the construction industry.

“The program initially started as a concept that was more developmental in nature,” said Steven Knisely, a principal with JMJ Associates. “It has since evolved into a commitment-based process that gives people an opportunity to examine their true feelings, beliefs and values in order to create an injury-free workplace.”

Incident and Injury-free is not so much about numbers as it is a mind-set about safety. It’s a way of thinking that avoids incidents and injuries, making safety a high priority on both a personal and organizational level. The idea first came about when JMJ was working with one of its clients to develop a new tactic for reducing work site incidents. IIF is designed to shift the focus of safety from a compliance requirement to a concern for workers’ health and welfare.

Bovis Lend Lease, the firm building the new Allure Las Vegas, uses IIF on its job sites. The $195 million, 41-story residential skyscraper on Sahara Boulevard, just west of the Strip, opens next month without a single incident or fatality. IIF helps reduce incidents and injuries, while improving productivity and absenteeism through a culture of mutual concern and respect. It creates a collective sense of ownership in the construction process.

Bovis, for instance, uses a modified safety orientation in which workers discuss their backgrounds. Dialogue about spouses and children helps form mutual trust between workers, leading to friendships and relationships. It also underscores what’s at risk — wives, kids, relatives — while subtly asserting the need for a collective safety effort. The chat is often informal, but also intimate. The result is a more personally connected job site with workers, managers and superintendents watching out for one another.

“Nearly 90 percent of accidents occur in safe conditions,” said Matthew Schroyer, Bovis’ environmental health and safety director for the company’s New England region. “We are trying to get to the point where working safely is the only way to work. It’s everyone’s obligation to have the right mind-set.”

IIF shuns traditional safety measurements, such as lost work-time hours or experience modification factors, emphasizing the number of relationships forged instead. Workers, under a conventional setting, often only follow rules and procedures for fear of being written up or fined. Several small and minor incidents, as a result, may never get reported. IIF removes those barriers and replaces them with worker concern to create a job site where incidents can be reported without fear of retribution.

The movement has experienced an unusually high-level of support across all segments of the industry. Practitioners feel that IIF brings labor and management closer resulting in more collaboration and a better understanding of work force needs.

It also cultivates stronger leadership skills since IIF requires people to change their attitudes, behavior or values.

“If everyone in the pool is a lifeguard, then no one gets hurt. They watch out for the other guy,” Schroyer said. “We think it’s the evolution of making the business safe.”

This story first appeared in the Business Press. Tony Illia is a freelance writer who writes for the Review-Journal’s sister publication and can be reached at tonyillia@aol.com or at 303-5699.

ad-high_impact_4
Business
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like