Construction industry veterans and local politicians held a roundtable discussion Saturday on worker and job site safety in the wake of a string of construction deaths around the valley during the past two years.
One of the purposes of the discussion, which was held at the Clark County Government Center, was to begin to suggest possible changes to state regulations regarding worker safety that could be submitted for the 2009 Legislative session.
“We’re not here today to do any finger pointing,” said County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who chaired the panel.
“What we’re trying to look at is recommendations, solutions, ideas and concepts. … What do we have in our own ordinances, or don’t have, that might be causing either problems or barriers.”
Some changes suggested to the panel by some of the union workers and representatives in attendance included:
•Safety oversight on construction projects independent of the project owner or the contractor.
•Additional funding for Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
•Proper OSHA training for job site safety supervisors.
•Mandatory relicensing in OSHA training every few years for workers.
Giunchigliani said she would send out recommendations from the discussion to union representatives and fellow panelists for review in the next couple weeks.
A date for another meeting has not been determined.
Giunchigliani said representatives from Nevada OSHA were invited to participate in the discussion. Officials in the government agency turned down the offer but said they would be willing to meet with her privately, Giunchigliani said.
Steve Ross, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, testified that the responsibility for worker safety is a collaborative effort between the project’s owner, contractors, subcontractors and individual construction workers.
“We are not going to remove accidents completely from any of these jobs sites,” said Ross, who also is on the Las Vegas City Council. “But a majority of the accidents that have happened here … are preventable.”
Twelve construction workers have died in 18 months on construction projects on the Strip.
David Jones, business manager for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 357 told the panel that some contractors are more concerned about insurance rates and how to increase profit margins.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a panelist on the roundtable, said while downtown has not yet experienced the resort building boom seen on the Strip, city officials want to be ready so it doesn’t see the number of workplace injuries and deaths experienced elsewhere.
“I want to be prepared by having ordinances and laws in place which will assure the well-being of those building our buildings,” Goodman said.
Representatives and workers from some of the local trade unions suggested that Nevada adopt or exceed standards set in other states, including safety standards written into the contracts between project owners and contractors.
“As long as we’re doing this, if something good comes out of it, let us be cutting edge,” Goodman said. “Let us be in the forefront of safety. Let us be No. 1 in something for this stupid state.”
Along with Giunchigliani and Goodman, the panel included Commissioner Rory Reid, Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades President Rick Johnson, and Steve Holloway, executive vice president of the Las Vegas chapter of Associated General Contractors.
A pair of representatives from the state Legislature were schedule to attend but had to cancel because of the special session that ran until late Friday night.
Contact Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.