My first workday at CityCenter—the Las Vegas Strip’s $8.6-billion mixed-use development, the country’s largest privately financed project—started last fall at the pitch- black hour of 6:30 a.m. I was nervous about my decision to shadow new construction hires during their safety training. Six workers had died on the project since 2007, sparking pickets and pressure that led to mandatory safety training. In the back of my mind was the fact that my brother-in-law, Darin, had suffered a near-fatal construction accident about a year earlier at another project and had returned to work at CityCenter. Now, months after my first day of training at CityCenter, the project’s safety crisis seems strangely distant, pushed from mind by the headlines about the just-concluded financial pact between the developers to finish the project. But I was determined to see for myself what happens in the middle of a safety turnaround.
So there I was on a cool, eerily quiet October morning when a crush of ragged work cars and pickup trucks converged onto Dean Martin Drive for the morning shift change. The sole access road onto the jobsite is a narrow stretch of asphalt that takes an hour to navigate a quarter mile. Some workers riding motorcycles weave in between cars for shorter travel times. New hires are immediately corralled into a mandatory two-hour orientation held inside a makeshift classroom in the basement of the employee parking garage. A safety trainer from Perini Building Co., the project’s Framingham, Mass.-based lead contractor, does the talking.