Report Says Nevada Builder Could Make Construction Safer

November 20, 2008

A major construction contractor could do more to ensure safety at its work sites, including the massive CityCenter project on Nevada’s Las Vegas Strip, according to two new reports.

Perini Building Co. sends an unclear message about safety to its workers, and some workers feel pressured to finish a job at the expense of safe practices, according to research from the Center for Construction Research and Training with assistance from National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Perini’s biggest job site is MGM Mirage’s $9.2 billion CityCenter complex on the Las Vegas Strip, where six construction workers have died in the past year and a half. It is also building the Cosmopolitan condominium-hotel next door, where two workers have died.

The findings were first reported in the Las Vegas Sun. Perini declined to comment to the newspaper, but spokeswoman Lesley Pittman told The Associated Press that the company’s “interpretation of the report findings are different from the newspaper’s.”

Pittman said Perini planned to issue a fuller statement later this week.

The reports were based on worker survey and site visits conducted in August. They describe the sites as congested with workers who suffer from heat and exhaustion, don’t always have access to drinking water, and don’t always wear protective gear.

“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.

The research was the result of an agreement reached between the Southern Nevada Building Trades Council and Perini after a one-day worker walkout over safety in June.

Perini allowed the safety researchers to walk the site, talk to workers and managers and conduct a limited review of documents.

Perini has said that individual worker mistakes caused fatalities and injuries and maintained there is no pattern of problems. It has ramped up a series of marketing campaigns to educate workers about the importance of following safety rules. The company maintains “zero tolerance” for safety violations and fires workers who do not follow safety rules, executives say.

The new reports caution the company not to rely on that approach alone.

“It appeared that the safety program philosophy emphasized enforcement and discipline for workers who did not follow rules and policies (as opposed to holding supervisors and contractor management responsible),” the report states.

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