Thursday, October 29, 2009

Education and Labor Committee

Today the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on Nevada’s workplace health and safety program and Federal OSHA's review of Nevada's state plan.

A Federal OSHA task force conducted a special study of the Nevada State Plan. It concluded that Nevada OSHA
• avoided classifying violations as repeat or willful violations
• identified hazards during inspections that were not addressed in citations.
• did not follow-up inspections
• did not track abatements
• did not make certain that employers carried out abatement.
• inspectors were not properly trained
• many times did not ensure injury and illness logs was not obtained by inspectors.
• failed to notify more than half the families that there was an investigation involving their loved ones death.

During the hearing

Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Jordan Barab pointed out there could be a few advantages to State plans; they add resources to the Federal program, they cover state and local government employees, they can possibly address more workplace hazards, they can conduct more inspections and strengthen enforcement and standards. Jordan also agreed that that the tribulations in Nevada were leadership problem.

Debi Koehler-Fergen also testified in the memory of her son, Travis, who was killed at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Debi stated "The Federal OSHA review of the Nevada State plan agency confirms that NV OSHA utterly failed not only my son and Richard, but also all workers in the state of Nevada...My son trusted his employers and never would have dreamt that on that fateful day he would be called upon to intentionally be put in a deadly situation."

A few of Debi's concerns were after reading OSHA's report was that NV OSHA lack of training. Two of NV inspectors had been conducting fatality investigations without accident investigation training. One employee hired in 1993 had not even received basic training for initial compliance. Debi was also troubled about the political connections that could influence the outcome of investigations and they way families were treated during these investigations.
Debi also explained the calloused treatment she received. ." “Adding insult to injury when we arrived to pick up the report I was told to come in the back lobby area and he would be right down (reporters were expected to be coming to the front door and going to their office). Instead of inviting us to his office he stood by the back elevator explaining why they reduced the citations while employees were walking past us watching me cry as I was understandably upset. At no time did he offer me a chair or to go to a private room while I digested what was going on around me. He did not show me common courtesy and was the most unprofessional encounter I have ever had.” ."

Rep. George Miller closed with the Smell test. He stated.” “If you get seven out of eight people dyeing you don’t end up with a serious violation, willful violation, that’s a fact (not a perception). The finding of the review is that willful violations were discouraged because of a lack of management and legal counsel support so I mean this is almost a set up. You have such bad recordkeeping, you have such bad training and you have such bad suck a lack of resources or skilled people apparently her that can do this that you end up seven out of eight nothing happened, essentially nothing happens for the death of a worker. I mean that is not a perception there is something very wrong with that, it just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
Miller also alluded to the fact that Nevada State OSHA may not have a grasp of the situation the inspector were busting the humps to insure enforcement but many times over ridden What is the message to the employer when they become exempt from inspections, willful citations and abated fines.

Well the families know well what this message it sends…you have a license to kill. Good Going Debi you persistence and hard work is paying off!

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