Las Vegas Sun

July 31, 2014

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FedOSHA director, in Las Vegas, mum on Strip safety

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. One week after the entire workforce of CityCenter walked out to protest unsafe working conditions, and just days after the state announced it was bringing in federal workplace safety inspectors to help them inspect CityCenter, the head of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Ed Foulke popped into town on a pre-scheduled visit to speak at a conference for safety professionals.

Foulke spoke at the Hilton ballroom Tuesday afternoon and emphasized what he calls his two "bottom lines": workers coming home (i.e. not dying on the job) and companies saving money on lost work hours and worker's comp costs so they can better compete in a global business environment.

"We're going to see real focus to safety and health as part of solution to make sure every company that wants to compete globally can be profitable and competitive in the global marketplace" said Foulke, when asked by a moderator about what he sees as the critical future issues for health and safety in the workplace. "We're going to see more of focus on safety and health from an economic standpoint. Companies can reduce workers comp and be more profitable and more competitive, and that will help us keep jobs in the United States. Helping companies become not only safer but also more successful, that's part of our mission."

Just once in his speech did Foulke explicitly mention OSHA's ability and its mandate to enforce workplace safety standards.

A FedOSHA spokesperson in town for the visit said Foulke would not comment on either Las Vegas's rash of construction deaths or the ironworkers' unions demands Monday that Foulke revisit a federal directive they say undermines safety standards.

Las Vegas is officially out of the control of federal OSHA because the state runs its own department, and its unusual for highly-ranked federal officials to become personally involved in specific issues in regions with state plans. But Foulke could hardly come into town this week without addressing Strip construction safety problems that have long been a concern of several officials at federal OSHA and are gaining public attention here and in Washington D.C. Foulke is to meet Wednesday with Las Vegas contractors as well as the union-affiliated researchers that will conduct an outside safety assessment of CityCenter, according to several people who were invited.

A spokesperson would not reveal or comment on Foulke's Wednesday schedule.

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