The Nevada report

Prompted by a series of workplace fatalities in Nevada and complaints filed against the state’s investigation of an on-the-job death, federal OSHA launched a review into Nevada’s occupational safety and health program.

The report – released Oct. 20 – revealed serious flaws in the state-run program, including failure to issue appropriate citations, poorly trained investigators and failure to follow up to ensure hazards were abated.

In its review, OSHA evaluated 23 workplace fatality case files and five cases with penalties in excess of $15,000 that occurred between Jan. 1, 2008, and June 1, 2009. Federal OSHA also reviewed all data gathered from the state’s OSHA inspectors in the same time frame, including general statistical information, complaint processing and inspection targeting.

Highlights from the report

Finding: Of the 2,117 programmed or planned inspections, the percent with serious violations was low, indicating Nevada OSHA’s Inspection Targeting System is not targeting locations where serious hazards are occurring.
Recommendation: Target high-hazard industries for inspections, and evaluate the effectiveness of active targeting programs.

Finding: In nearly half the fatality cases, the state did not notify the deceased’s family members of the investigation, depriving them of the opportunity to speak with investigators.
Recommendation: Comply with established Nevada OSHA procedures to contact victims’ family members when the investigation is launched. Additionally, develop a tracking system to ensure all communications are accomplished.

Finding: Willful violations were discouraged due to a lack of management and legal counsel support.
Recommendation: Work with legal counsel to develop training to improve the development of legally sufficient cases and increase the pursuit of willful violations.

Finding: As a means for the state legislature to determine if Nevada OSHA is meeting goals, the agency agreed to conduct 2,900 inspections a year, which breaks down to 95-115 inspections per investigator – “far too many … to do a thorough job,” the report said.
Recommendation: Work with the legislature to use more outcome measures to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.

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