Nevada Questions Safety Standards

A staging company and a Las Vegas hotel recently paid thousands in fines over the death of a stagehand in last year.

Vicente Rodriguez plunged nearly 37 feet from a rigging plank while tearing down fixtures after a Tom Jones show at the Hollywood Theatre in May 2009.

The Nevada Occupational Health and Safety Administration cited staging company Rhino Las Vegas $4,000 and the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino paid a penalty of $19,800 for the incident.

The payments, which were reduced from previous fines of $25,000 and $38,700, respectively, have spurred discussions regarding OSHA’s current penalty scale and the changing hazards of the workplace.

“The current penalty structure is too low to compel companies to take workplace safety as seriously as they should,” federal OSHA spokesman Michael Wald told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nevada OSHA director Steve Coffeld added that the state’s safety regulations, which are geared toward construction sites, have yet to fully encompass the entertainment industry and the unique hazards associated with it.

According to the OSHA accident report obtained by the paper, Rodriguez was working in an area where workers had to balance on a catwalk over the stage at the venue before they could clip into a safety harness. While the report concluded that Rodriguez was wearing his harness improperly, it also found that he had to step over 33 inches of false ceiling on the catwalk without any guardrails.

OSHA did not find the safety violations to be willful, the paper said.

Nevada officials are reportedly in discussions to develop a campaign promoting safety in the entertainment industry.