In light of 25 recent construction- and workplace-related deaths in the state and on the Las Vegas Strip, Federal OSHA officials have conducted an investigation into the Nevada OSHA program and concluded that it is both ineffective and incompetent.

Complete report available here.

The Feds specifically gigged the agency for not issuing more willful violations, noting that its only willful violation citation was later reduced to non-willful, and for not following up on corrective measures mandated on companies that violated OSHA standards.

Nevada OSHA officials claim that willful violations had proven so hard to win in court that they had become reluctant to issue such citations, but they promised a review of their procedures.

Nevada OSHA officials further acknowledged at a news conference Tuesday (Oct. 20, 2009) that they need to make improvements, including in their overall approach to workplace hazards.

“Looking back, we should have taken a more aggressive approach,” said Donald Jayne, the new head of the state Industrial Relations Division, which oversees the agency. “That’s an easy call.”

In light of its probe in Nevada, Fed/OSHA is now planning to examine other states’ programs as well. It’s still possible that the federal agency may also take the dramatic and previously unused step of assuming control of the state OSH Agency.

“The safety of workers must be priority one, and the U.S. Department of Labor is stepping up its review of state OSHA plans to ensure that is the case,” Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said.

The investigation sprang in large part from a Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé by the Las Vegas Sun. It was the most thorough investigation of a state agency conducted in two decades, according to officials.