With tensions over construction worker deaths along the Las Vegas Strip surfacing, about 200 ironworkers met at their union hall last Friday to discuss how to improve workplace safety.
TheLas Vegas Sunreported that much of the discussion during the 90-minute closed meeting, according to some who attended, focused on a theme that the ironworkers take more personal responsibility for one another’s safety.
There was reportedly little talk about whether the union should more aggressively go after contractors and the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration to improve work site safety.
By meeting’s end, there was general agreement among union stewards that they would now participate in conferences between state safety inspectors and contractors when safety violations are discussed in the wake of workplace fatalities.
Such meetings â€” when contractors can challenge violations and get them reduced or removed â€” are open to union representatives, but in the nine Strip construction deaths over the past 16 months, unions have not attended a single one, a
Three of the workers who died belonged to the Los Angeles-based Ironworkers Union Local 433, which has taken the biggest hit among the unions engaged in Strip construction work.
“I was disappointed,” said Monique Cole, a sister of a worker who died in an accidental fall. “I expected them to talk about how they were going to support changes in safety, and they really didn’t discuss OSHA or management. That wasn’t dealt with.”
Construction safety experts told theSunthe deaths and the related safety violations suggest contractors aren’t taking sufficient precautions and that Nevada OSHA is not forcefully upholding safety laws.
A Sun investigation found that the agency watered down or entirely withdrew its citations against contractors after meeting with them, and that trade unions were not aggressively advocating for worker safety, including by not representing workers’ interests when OSHA inspectors meet with contractors in the wake of fatalities.
Union to meet with OSHA over Vegas Strip construction safety (4/8)
April 8, 2008