CNMI OSHA has no jurisdiction on IPI incident


The CNMI Occupational Safety and Health Administration had no authority to investigate or impose fines on possible violations of employers in a workplace. CNMI OSHA On-Site Consultation Division project manager Mariana Coates made the clarification yesterday in a telephone interview with Saipan Tribune.

Coates made the statement after they received criticisms for failing to act on possible violations committed by the subcontractors of Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC at the construction site of the multi-million dollar Imperial Pacific Resort in Garapan.

A Chinese national plummeted to his death on Wednesday after falling 24 feet from a scaffold. Last week, a trash fire hit the construction site. A photo posted on a social media site also showed a huge pile of debris at the construction site.

Coates said that investigations and imposing fines is the job of the federal OSHA office in Region 9. The CNMI is one of the states and territories under its jurisdiction.

The states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada, and the territories of American Samoa and Guam compose the Region 9 office that is located in San Francisco.

“People in our community need to know that it is the compliance officers and the enforcement office that conduct inspections for any work-related injury that either needs hospitalization or not,” said Coates.

“We have no jurisdiction on this issue, it is not like that. We just basically provide technical assistance and do onsite consultations to employers. CNMI OSHA is separate from enforcement and we don’t issue citations or impose penalties.”

The federal OSHA is one of the umbrella agencies of the U.S. Department of Labor, while CNMI OSHA, although it also receives federal funding, is a division under the local Department of Labor.

According to the local labor department’s website, CNMI OSHA is a U.S. Labor cooperative program for small businesses that offers free and confidential on-site safety advice. They also give health advice to small- and medium-sized businesses and is committed to improving workplace safety and health of employees.
Formal oversight

Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) has requested House Speaker Rafael S. Demapan (R-Saipan) to form an oversight in order for IPI and its subcontractors answer questions regarding the incident.

Propst, in the letter, said accidents should not happen if safety is practiced. “With all due respect, there are no accidents when it comes to negligence in the workplace, most especially at a construction site.”

“While the Department of Public Safety is investigating and treating this as an accidental death, there are many questions that need to be answered,” added Propst, who listed 10 questions that nees to be addressed: Was the worker wearing a safety harness? If not, why not? Could this death have been prevented if the worker was wearing a safety harness? Was this death caused by negligence at the construction site? Was 911 called as soon as he fell and did the company wait for the medics to arrive on scene to treat him?

Was the worker moved and placed on a plywood form and transferred to the hospital in a van? Are there any safety officers on site? If so, is it normal protocol to move someone after they have fallen? Is this the first death to occur at the construction site? If there are other deaths, why have they not ever been reported? How many severe injuries have occurred at this construction site? How many have been reported? How many have been permanently paralyzed due to falls? How many workers are trained in administering first-aid and CPR at the construction site? Is there medical equipment and supplies readily available, and is someone trained to treat someone who gets seriously injured on site?

Saipan Tribune also reported yesterday an increase in work-related injuries since 2015, based on documents obtained from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. The report noted a 370-percent increase from 2015 to 2017.

“It would be good to know how many of these severe injuries came from the casino construction site and what steps have been taken to reduce the number of injuries,” said Propst, who added the oversight is not intended to blame somebody but “to seek answers and to hopefully prevent another death or serious injury” from occurring.

“I understand there are deadlines in place, but we must not allow anyone to sacrifice speed for safety. Every life is sacred and everyone working in the CNMI must be afforded the right to work in a safe environment.”

Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez began his writing career as a sports reporter in the Philippines where he has covered local and international events. He became a news writer when he joined media network ABS-CBN. He joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, while in college.

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