Nevada OSHA Links Vegas Construction Death to Pace

LAS VEGAS (AP) - The June 16 death of a carpenter at a Las Vegas
Strip construction site resulted from a contractor rushing to build the casino complex, Nevada workplace safety officials said.

The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the foreman supervising 49-year-old Lyndal Bates pushed employees to work at unsafe speeds in building Boyd Gaming Corp.'s Echelon resort, the Las Vegas Sun reported Thursday.

Nevada OSHA said the pace deviated from written procedures of contractor Marnell Corrao Associates.

Bates died after mistakenly attaching his safety harness to a piece of scaffolding he was tearing down in a hotel basement. When he threw the scaffolding down, he went with it, falling 13 feet and landing on his head.

Bates was "tied to the scaffold that he threw because the foreman told us that we would have to throw down all (the scaffolding) to do the job quicker," an employee who witnessed the death wrote in a witness statement included in the report.

"At the beginning we did it with a rope but (the foreman) did not want it done that way and he was rushing us and there was not safety on the floor. Everything was in disorder," he wrote, according to the report. "It could have happened to anyone and it was worse that it happened to my friend."

OSHA concluded after its seven-week investigation that workers and supervisors usually worked in tandem or on a scissors lift to lower scaffolding to the ground with a rope, the proper way to dismantle the so-called "frame shoring towers," which are used to mold concrete.

But Bates' foreman began screaming at workers two days before the accident, telling them to speed things up by working alone and throwing the scaffolding to the ground, workers told OSHA investigators according to the report.

The foreman was "really rushing them" on the day Bates died, the workers told OSHA.

Marnell was fined $11,000 for five violations, including illegally cleaning up the site before investigators arrived. The contractor disputed the state agency's findings, but missed a deadline in filing an appeal. Marnell sent a letter to OSHA on Tuesday asking permission to file an appeal.

Boyd Gaming defended Marnell's reputation for safety.

"We selected Marnell for their reputation as a solid construction company with a very impressive safety record," Boyd spokesman Rob Stillwell told the newspaper. "They have a great history of being an excellent builder and quality construction company and their regard for safety is a top priority."

Construction of the $4.8 billion, 87-acre Echelon resort was put on hold last month. Boyd officials say they are waiting until economic conditions improve to finish the resort.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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