Contractors to propose training initiatives

Slowing the pace of work on the Strip not an option, group’s vice president says

Wed, Dec 17, 2008 (2 a.m.)

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Not wanting to show up empty-handed to a public meeting about construction safety tonight, contractors on Tuesday unveiled a wish list of proposals they say will promote safer conditions on Las Vegas work sites.

The ideas drawn up by the Associated General Contractors focus primarily on boosting training and curbing drug and alcohol abuse by workers.

The proposals will be presented to a group expected to include county commissioners, state legislators and union representatives meeting at the Clark County Government Center.

Organized by Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Ross, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building and Construction Trades Council, the group first met in June to address the 12 construction deaths on the Las Vegas Strip.

In October, Giunchigliani sent out a list of policy suggestions that arose at the meeting. Those included giving a government agency the ability to shut down a site over safety, reviewing whether the county should stop allowing 24-7 construction, addressing OSHA funding and staffing shortfalls, reviewing the connection between safety and the workers’ compensation system, and exploring how the county’s building department might become more involved in safety.

Giunchigliani asked general contractors Vice President Steve Holloway and Ross, who also sits on the Las Vegas City Council, to come to tonight’s meeting with a proposal for safety improvements.

Holloway said he held a series of meetings with some of his 700 contractor members to discuss safety. Perini Building Co., general contractor on the Strip projects where the majority of deaths have occurred, is not a member, but many of the subcontractors that work on Perini projects belong to the organization.

Holloway said contractors are hoping they can fend off policies they find particularly egregious — namely steps that might slow down the fast pace of construction in Las Vegas.

“That would be an economic disaster for this state,” Holloway said in an interview Tuesday. “Time is money. MGM Mirage or anyone else, they put in billions of dollars and if you want the job done you’re going to have to allow them to build 24-7. This is a 24-7 town.”

Among the changes Holloway prefers is increasing salaries for inspectors at Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the state’s workplace safety oversight agency, so the agency can compete with private industry for talented safety experts. OSHA inspectors are paid $37,000 to $68,000, which is less than private industry pays. During the construction boom, many state inspectors were lured away by higher paying jobs on construction sites.

The agency had six inspector jobs unfilled most of this year, even as the agency had an unprecedented number of large projects to inspect.

As construction slowed this year, OSHA benefited. Just three inspector jobs remained unfilled this week, OSHA spokeswoman Elisabeth

Shurtleff said.

Holloway said contractors might be willing to pay fees for OSHA inspections that could be used to raise OSHA salaries.

Also among the general contractors’ proposals are several that would require more safety training for workers and supervisors. The building trades unions plan to introduce legislation that would require all workers to take 10 hours of safety training. The contractors want to add eight hours of additional training every year, which could be broken up into half-hour segments.

“You have to keep safety in front of people,” Holloway said. “It has to be something they think about frequently.”

Ross and building trades spokesman Steve Redlinger did not return calls from the Sun asking about the proposals.

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