Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, will hold an oversight hearing on Thursday, Oct 29 on the Nevada OSHA State Plan (NV-OSHA).   The hearing comes just about one week after federal OSHA released a scathing critique of NV-OSHA and acting asst.  secretary Jordan Barab indicated the program was in “urgent need for corrections.”   Chairman Miller said the review highlighted:

“dangerous gaps in health and safety protections for workers in Nevada,” and indicated “Workers in Nevada deserve to know that basic health and safety protections are enforced by the agency tasked to protect them.”

 In a statement following the release of OSHA’s review of NV-OSHA, Senator Reid said:

“I salute the brave men and women who work on dangerous job sites throughout our state. Without their professionalism, skill, and courage, the city of Las Vegas and the state of Nevada would not be what it is today. That is why following a series of unfortunate accidents, many of them fatal, I welcome today’s report from the Department of Labor reviewing of the Nevada Occupational Safety & Health Program.  …Going forward, I am hopeful that all stakeholders will work together to improve procedures and safety conditions in workplaces throughout our state.”

Senator Reid’s office also announced that he would testify at the House Education and Labor Committee hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10:00 am (EST) and will be webcast.  The other witnesses at the hearing include:

  • Donald Jayne, adminstrator, Nevada Division of Industrial Relations
  • Jordan Barab, acting asst. secretary of labor, OSHA
  • Debra Koehler-Fergen, whose son Travis, 20, who died from toxic fumes in a confined space (along with another worker, Richard Luzier) at the Orleans Hotel on the Las Vegas strip in 2007
  • Frank Mirer, PhD, Professor, Hunter College, CUNY

No information yet on who ranking member Jon Kline (R-MN) has invited as a witness.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis also issued a statement following her agency’s report on NV-OSHA.  She  indicated:

“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.  This is a critical challenge, and addressing it thoughtfully will save lives as we move from reaction to prevention.” 

We’ll be eager to see which State Plan is next in line for a similiar comprehensive review.  It makes me wonder whether self-promotion reports by enforcement agencies—such as this 2008 one from OSHSPA—- are worth the money used to produce them.   Perhaps an external, tri-partite review might be logical approach, with a NACOSH public process to develop the review criteria.

Celeste Monforton, DrPH, MPH is an asst. research professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health.  Her home state of Michigan is one of the 26 States that runs its own OSHA program.  MIOSHA is part of the Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG).