Oct. 20, 2009
Contact: Diana Petterson
US Labor Department's OSHA issues reporton Nevada's state occupational safety and health program
Federal OSHA to review all state plan programs
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a report on Nevada's occupational safety and health program that reveals a number of serious concerns with the program's operation, including failure to issue appropriate willful and repeat citations, poorly trained inspectors and lack of follow-up to determine whether hazards were abated. The comprehensive evaluation of the Nevada OSHA plan points to an urgent need for corrections in oversight and changes in all phases of its workplace safety and health program.
Twenty-five workplace deaths occurred in Nevada from January 2008 through June 2009. Those deaths, in addition to extensive media coverage revealing Nevada OSHA's poor handling of the fatality investigations and several serious complaints filed with federal OSHA about Nevada's state plan administration, compelled OSHA's investigation.
"The safety of workers must be priority one, and the U.S. Department of Labor is stepping up review of state OSHA plans to ensure that is the case," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "I am pleased that Nevada OSHA cooperated fully throughout the evaluation process and that the state agency's new leadership has pledged to take prompt corrective action."
Between July and August 2009, OSHA monitors evaluated Nevada's workplace fatality investigations, as well as information from all Nevada OSHA inspections conducted from January 2008 through June 2009. OSHA identified a number of systemic issues that caused great concern: Identified hazards were not cited, families of deceased workers were not notified of fatality investigations nor provided opportunities to speak to investigators ¿ though family members may provide information pertinent to a case, and Nevada OSHA investigators demonstrated limited knowledge of construction safety hazards.
The details of OSHA's Nevada report raised concerns about OSHA's monitoring of all state plan states. Jordan Barab, the Labor Department's acting Assistant Secretary for OSHA, added, "As a result of the deficiencies identified in Nevada OSHA's program and this administration's goal to move from reaction to prevention, we will strengthen the oversight, monitoring and evaluation of all state programs."
Barab also pointed out the benefits of state programs: "Many state programs have shown they have the flexibility to deal with workplace hazards that are sometimes not addressed by federal OSHA, and we strongly support their initiative and dedication."
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health programs. Federal OSHA approves and monitors the state plans and provides up to 50 percent of an approved plan's operating costs. Nevada, one of 27 states and American territories approved to operate its own safety and health enforcement program, has been a state plan state since December 1973. OSHA's role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America's men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, outreach and education. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
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