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September 2, 2014

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Reports suggest fixes for CityCenter safety problems

Researchers put together safety audit based on surveys, interviews

CityCenter Construction

MGM Mirage's $9 billion CityCenter project, encompassing seven buildings, continues rising Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009. Launch slideshow »

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The Center for Construction Research and Training unveiled a series of reports Wednesday that aim to diagnose and recommend fixes for safety problems endangering workers at the CityCenter and Cosmopolitan construction sites.

Those projects have been the scene of eight deaths and are both overseen by general contractor Perini Building Company.

In June, thousands of workers walked off the projects and said Perini was not doing enough to ensure their safety. That action resulted in guaranteed access by Perini for a group of safety researchers from the union-affiliated Center for Construction Research and Training, based in Silver Spring, Md.

Twelve researchers from the Center worked on a fall hazard audit and assessments of the sites' safety culture through worker and management surveys as well as on-site observations and interviews. The reports are available here.

The Sun has previously reported many of the Center's findings, which paint a picture of a site dangerously congested with workers who fear falling debris, feel pressured by supervisors to ignore safety in the rush to finish a job, suffer from heat and exhaustion and don’t always have access to drinking water, get in arguments with workers of other trades because of scheduling conflicts, and often don’t wear basic personal protective gear — particularly safety glasses.

“Noncompliance with basic (personal protective equipment) requirements is indicative of a poor safety culture, an ineffective safety program, and lack of supervisor/foreman understanding of their responsibility for safety,” researchers wrote.

A fall hazard audit performed by researchers from the University of West Virginia found few fall protection problems at Mandarin but found more serious problems at Aria -- particularly with ladders and guardrails. Both towers are at MGM Mirage's $9 billion CityCenter project. Four workers -- two at CityCenter and two at Cosmopolitan -- were killed by falls.

In surveys of more than 3,000 workers, as well as foremen, superintendents and top management executives, the Center found that Perini safety programs have helped to increase safety on the site. But the Center found "discrepant" perceptions about safety between the various levels of management.

For example, 69 percent of workers compared to 94 percent of foremen, 97 percent of superintendents and 94 percent of executives agree that Perini thinks safety is more important than job schedules and deadlines.

"While we believe Perini worksites are among the safest in the world, we continuously seek to identify methods by which we can adjust and strengthen worker safety, and to that end, we are already implementing many of [the] recommendations," said Perini CEO Craig Shaw, in a statement.

Among the recommendations Perini says it has begun to implement are efforts to increase worker involvement in safety, including joint worker-management safety planning committees, a formal worker safety observation program, timely management feedback on raised concerns, and a phone number for workers to confidentially report safety concerns.

As another outcome of the worker strike, Perini has also trained more than 10,000 workers in 10 hours of safety lessons.

"We applaud Perini's work to enhance safety and health for our members," said Building and Construction Trades executive secretary-treasurer Steve Ross, in a statement. "These steps confirm the dedication that both labor and management have to making our projects both safe and productive."

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