Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2014

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Citing Las Vegas construction deaths, Senators demand protection for workers

WASHINGTON — Concerned about construction deaths on the Las Vegas Strip, Democratic Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy and others are demanding that the Labor Department take immediate steps to require safety netting or flooring beneath high-rise construction workers nationwide.

The senators sent a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao citing an “alarming” number of deaths on the Strip and from construction crane accidents elsewhere. The letter, which was also signed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, demands action within 30 days to change policy that “seems designed to minimize costs – not maximize safety.” No Republicans signed the letter, including Nevada Sen. John Ensign.

“Our nation’s construction workers are in danger,” the senators wrote. “Construction workers and their families should be confident that when they go to work, they will return home safely.”

The senators called on the secretary to take action in six areas:

- Notify construction firms that federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors will begin requiring contractors to provide two forms of protection: safety harnesses and flooring or netting. Current OSHA standards require both forms of protection, but the agency issued an interpretation of those standards in 2002 that allowed contractors to avoid installing the flooring or netting.

- Explain why the agency has delayed issuing new crane safety regulations for four years provide a date when those standards will be issued; forward a copy of an advisory committee consensus report on cranes and derricks standards; describe a plan for increasing crane safety inspection and data collection.

“I hope the Department of Labor will take this request seriously and will take the necessary steps to ensure that existing safety standards are upheld and properly enforced,” Reid said in a statement. “As we have seen this is an important issue in Nevada and across the country.”

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