Thursday, April 23, 2009 | 4:48 p.m.
Echoing remarks she made earlier this week, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said Thursday that her department would strengthen the Occupational Safety and Health Administration by adding hundreds of investigators and spending tens of millions of dollars on enforcement activities.
"We’ll have more people out in the field to make inspections, and we’re going to have to be a lot smarter and strategic on how we do that," Solis said. "We are going to look at industries where you have a high incidence of accidents."
She said OSHA would focus on the construction industry in particular.
Last year the Las Vegas Sun detailed how construction workers had died at a rate of one every six weeks on the Strip. The Sun also reported that state OSHA officials reduced fines and withdrew citations after negotiations with employers over findings of responsibility in the deaths.
Solis spoke briefly with reporters Thursday after touring Nevada Partners and the Culinary Training Academy in North Las Vegas. She said made the trip at the request of Sen. Harry Reid.
The labor secretary said federal OSHA was working with Nevada OSHA to review injuries and fatalities on Strip construction projects.
"There shouldn't be any loss of life. Workers should be able to go to work and go home," she said. "We know there has to be more assistance provided, so our department is ready and willing to do that."
Solis noted that $80 million in federal funds had been allocated for enforcement activities through Fiscal 2010. During her tour of Nevada Partners, she told a class of high school students that the Labor Department hoped to hire between 300 and 400 new investigators. That number could climb as high as 1,000 depending on funding, she said. Unclear is how many of those investigators will be assigned to OSHA.
Solis said her department would pay special attention to Nevada.
"We will work closely with Nevada, because, again, the high incidence of fatalities in the construction area," she said. "If we can learn from things here we can share that with other parts of the country that have similar accidents."