A new study published in a National Safety Council journal says that widely differing perceptions of safety helped conceal that an aggressive schedule, congested jobsite and lax safety enforcement may have created conditions that led to eight construction worker deaths at two big Las Vegas projects, CityCenter and Cosmopolitan, between 2007 and 2008.

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Perini Building Co., a unit of Sylmar, Calif.-based Tutor Perini Corp., is the general contractor for both projects. The study appeared in the most recent issue of the Journal of Safety Research.

Using a survey of more than 5,000 employees, the study’s seven authors argue multilevel surveys during the project might have revealed workers felt safety “gets ignored for productivity” and that there were “too many workers in a small space.”

Craft workers walked off both jobsites on June 2, 2008, to protest unsafe working conditions. The 24-hour strike resulted in mandatory 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration training for everyone on-site.

Nevada lawmakers have since mandated training for all construction workers within 15 days of hire, effective on Jan. 1, 2011; supervisors must undergo 30 hours of training. OSHA opened a Las Vegas office in July following a seven-year absence, and state legislators are proposing higher fines, added state OSHA enforcement authority and local or state attorney general investigation of workplace fatalities. Four draft bills will be introduced during the February 2011 Nevada Legislature.

CityCenter contractors, meanwhile, are fighting for $492 million in withheld payment by Las Vegas-based owner MGM Resorts International. Perini and the subs have filed individual mechanics liens and lawsuits against MGM Resorts, which held a closed-door 40-minute meeting with 250 subs on June 9. Perini wasn’t allowed to attend.

Bills will be resolved by November if the necessary information and paperwork is provided, says an MGM spokesman. As of early July, MGM had reached final agreement with seven firms. “No matter what paperwork you submit, there is always another hoop to jump through,” claims Perini CEO Craig Shaw.

By Tony Illia