Nevada Workers Safety Training Plan Debated

By Rachelle Gines | April 29, 2009

Changes to speed up the workplace safety training for new employees in Nevada, in efforts to reduce on-the-job deaths and injuries, prompted questions in a Nevada Assembly committee hearing.

AB148 requires 10 hours of safety training for employees and 30 hours of safety training for supervisors. Companies would have to drop workers who don’t get the training in a timely manner. The measure stems from the deaths of 12 workers at Las Vegas Strip construction sites over an 18-month period.

Debate on AB148 in an Assembly Ways and Means Committee hearing focused on a change to the bill that shortens the deadline for both employees and supervisors to complete the safety training to 15 days from the date of hire instead of the 60 days originally in the bill.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, told committee members that the new deadline will make job sites safer and prevent deaths.

“My thought on the 15 days is that what we’re trying to do is make a culture of safety. I don’t believe if you wait 60 days it does that. I think it should be from day one on the job because you can get killed from day one,” Oceguera said.

The shortened time frame also prevents employers from getting around the proposed law, Oceguera said, explaining that if the deadline was kept at 60 days “an employer could merely keep you hired for 59 days and then terminate you or move you to another location.”

“To go along with the spirit of the bill, beginning from top to bottom, from the lowest- ranking employee to the highest-ranking employee, everybody has to have the training,” Oceguera said after the hearing.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said the bill previously had a broad range of support, but that the new time frame prompted “a change in the tide because people were very concerned about being able to comply in 15 days.”

“I know some of these courses are available but I think people need to kind of get caught up and used to this,” Gansert said.

Oceguera said he was surprised and “a little disappointed” about reaction to the changed timeline. He said the bill’s effective date could be changed from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1, 2010, but he wouldn’t support lengthening the deadline for completing the safety training beyond 15 days.

“I think that what we’re trying to do is get people from the day they come on the job to think about safety, so stretching that date out doesn’t make much sense to me,” Oceguera said.

Megan Jackson of Associated Builders and Contractors said the association “100 percent supports safety on the job site,” but asked that lawmakers consider delaying the effective date to the start of 2010 to give the industry time to prepare.

Training costs also should be considered, Jackson said. In an e-mail after the hearing, Jackson said average costs for 10 hours of employee training is about $140 and close to $300 for 30 hours of supervisor training. She added that it may take longer than 15 days to get proof of completion of the class.

“To look at getting every construction employee in the state of Nevada certified, rough estimates would be for the more than 200,000 construction workers in Nevada, at $140 would be close to $28 million coming out of the pockets of Nevadans in these economic hard times,” Jackson said.

Jonathan Friedrich, who will teach a construction site safety course in southern Nevada this fall, favored the bill but said the sheer number of people in Nevada’s construction industry presents a logistical challenge to an Oct. 1 deadline. He also suggested that lawmakers set Jan. 1, 2010, as the effective date.

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