FOX5 investigation into worker's death leads to new OSHA policie - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

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FOX5 investigation into worker's death leads to new OSHA policies, but it's too late

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Nevada OSHA is changing its policies after settling a case with the company responsible for an unsafe work site that killed an employee last Aug.  (FOX5) Nevada OSHA is changing its policies after settling a case with the company responsible for an unsafe work site that killed an employee last Aug.  (FOX5)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Nevada OSHA is changing its policies after settling a case with the company responsible for an unsafe work site that killed an employee last Aug. 

Earlier this month, Performance Builders Incorporated agreed to pay a discounted rate of $7,000 for erecting an unsafe scaffold that broke apart last Aug. with Ricardo Bautista on top. The scaffold did not have the proper bracing or pins in place to lock it together.

Bautista fell multiple stories to his death at Tivoli Village. He was a husband and a father.

A FOX5 investigation revealed that OSHA made a mistake in giving out unreasonable discounts to Performance Builders. Executives acknowledged the mistake, blaming a lack of administrative oversight, but they didn't bother to go back and correct it. Instead the discounts made their way into the settlement, saving Performance Builders thousands of dollars.

Performance Builders and OSHA struck the deal hours before a public hearing that would have pit the two sides against each other. 

At a recent meeting, members of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters Union said they were disgusted with OSHA for failing to hold Performance Builders accountable. Some teared up when they heard the news.

"How is a life worth seven grand? I don't get it," carpenter James Helms said. "There's a huge problem with the system ... I've been in this trade for 12 to 13 years. It's not what OSHA makes it out to be."

"It's just corrupt," carpenter Jesus Gandara said. "Let us do our job and stop killing people."

Joseph (JD) Decker, an administrator for the department that oversees OSHA, claimed that the settlement was fair because Performance Builders agreed to OSHA's terms. Still, he admitted that the punishments could have been steeper if he allowed the case to be heard in front of the OSHA Review Board.

Victim's family: "This is not justice."

Decker said he was hopeful about OSHA's new policies and the lessons he has learned from these past few months, but he said it was "too late" for those changes to apply to this case.

"I don't think that anything that anybody is going to do is going to make the family feel better about losing a valued family member," he said.

OSHA administrators might not be able to make the family feel better, but they found away to make the family feel worse.

Bautista's widow, Jacquelyne Moreno, said she wept when she heard OSHA settled the case.

"This is not justice," she said.

As a part of the policy changes, Decker blamed his subordinates and promised to make sure companies stop receiving discounts when their employees die.

"Well, I wasn't part of the discussions on the reductions of penalties," Decker said. "You know, I'm not intimately familiar with the case ... I would have to refer you to Jess Lankford."

    Lankford is the the chief administrative officer of OSHA. He initially answered some questions about the case in Feb., but he has refused to answer his phone or perform an interview since failing to show up for a scheduled interview to discuss the settlement. 

    An inside source familiar with the investigation claimed Lankford has received "marching orders" to specifically avoid interacting with FOX5 journalists.

    Still, Lankford has refused to confirm or deny the allegations on his own. 

    "No such 'marching orders' were given," wrote Teri Williams, a spokesperson for OSHA, in an email. "Mr. Lankford was given JD's approval to handle any further inquiries ... in whatever manner Jess deemed appropriate."

    Wayne Boehme, a superintendent who has overseen construction sites across the Las Vegas Valley, said he isn't so sure with the way OSHA is being handled. He was visibly upset with the settlement.

    "Somebody is pulling somebody's strings," he said. "I want to know who (Performance Builders) knows down at OSHA."

    The investigator who managed the case against Performance Builders has since resigned from OSHA. His final day was about a week after the settlement.

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