...say that we all are in this together, employer and staff, and we better get it together and follow the rules. In other words, don’t do anything stupid. The OSHA 10 training mentions the importance of taking breaks, but Perini does not exactly invite new workers to rest, either through breaks or days off, if they are tired. According to the Center to Protect Workers’ Rights, fatigue was a major factor in the high accident rate.

Back in training, new hires are shown a map of the sprawling 76-acre jobsite that is a beehive complex of concurrent building projects between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts. MGM Mirage’s onsite headquarters is dubbed “The White House” by workers. It is strictly off-limits for field personnel. Perini’s building is called the “Pentagon” for its warlike planning and strategizing, while Perini’s management offices are known as “The West Wing,” or brain center of CityCenter’s construction operations. Like a wartime operation, there are casualties. It is important to know the terrain; it is easy to get lost or hurt.

CityCenter is divided into three large blocks, each with its own managers, estimators and supervisors. A friendly but fierce rivalry exists between block teams, each vying for bragging rights and racing against one another to finish schedule milestones. About 800 diesel-powered “buggy carts,” similar to golf carts, shuttle staff around the expansive property. Cart parking is an issue, as is unauthorized use. Some drivers use the Club, a steering- wheel-lock device, to deter cart borrowing.

After orientation, new hires form a serpentine line for routine breath-and- urine testing. It is conducted inside a trailer in the parking garage. Next, workers are shepherded into a classroom for the 10 hours of required federal safety training that takes place over two days. After drug testing alongside the staff, we head to class.

My OSHA 10 class consists of about 40 people from different trades with varying levels of experience. The group includes electricians, pipefitters, concrete finishers and operating engineers. One trainee tries to pay the instructor, a Texan with a noticeable drawl, a cash bribe to let him out of the classroom stint. “Can I get out of this? What if I was willing to pay you?” He is swiftly rebuffed by our instructor, who says, “I hope, for your sake, that you’re joking.” The red-faced worker sinks deeply into his chair, hoping to escape. “Because I’ll give you the boot right now! And you won’t be able to work. Do you want that?” the instructor asks. The answer is a soft, chagrined “no.” A cash bribe for skipping school? But everyone is here to make a buck.


Class begins with standing and stating your name, trade and number of years in Las Vegas. Workers hail from everywhere: Texas, Illinois, Florida, California and even England. Instructors review program components with individual illustrated booklets that cover a specific OSHA code segment. Ten booklets, averaging 28 pages each, are reviewed at a rate of one per hour. They cover everything from confined spaces and fall protection to fire safety and material handling. Designed with large, bold type, the booklets contain short multiple-choice quizzes to reinforce the content.

The trainees read portions aloud, like a Bible study class, alternating round-robin so the information in the book comes from peers. Quiz questions are answered together as a group, so no one is singled out or ridiculed for a wrong answer. A PowerPoint presentation conveys the book content on a screen during the readings.

We learn that 15 out of every 100 full-time construction workers suffer a lost-time injury annually—more than other industries. Sprains and muscle strains account for 38%. By conservative estimates, 50,000 workers a year—137 each day—die from diseases contracted on the job in all industries. Meanwhile, falls cause 100,000 injuries and up to 200 deaths annually in construction. Eight-five percent of fall injuries result in lost time that costs employers $2 billion annually in worker compensation and productivity.

“Plans were only 30% complete when we began construction.”
— Mike Janowski, Perini superintendent

The force of an impact from a fall increases geometrically with height. The potential impact is 16 times greater for a 0.4-second fall of 31 in. than a 0.1-second fall of 2 in. For example, A 200-lb. worker who falls 31 in. creates 4,096 lb of impact. The impact force of Darin’s fall from the scissor-lift was much greater.

The statistics batter the class into a grim, reflective silence. It reinforces the idea that there is malevolent, bone-shattering violence lurking behind every task and that construction collects a toll of lost fingers, herniated discs and smashed toes from its practitioners. Much of it does not seem real until our instructors, who rotate every few hours, share personal anecdotes and jobsite horror stories about someone getting crushed to death by...