Douglas resisting idea of business licensing to improve industrial safety
Douglas County officials told lawmakers Friday there is serious resistance in that county to any new ordinance that would require businesses to be licensed.
Lawmakers and state safety officials have called for licensing and permitting of businesses — especially industrial firms that use and store dangerous chemicals — to improve safety for fire and emergency officials responding to problems.
They say without licensing, state environmental and safety officials may not even know a potentially hazardous business exists.
However, a business license would not guarantee Douglas could afford to conduct inspections for dangerous material.
Douglas County Manager Dan Holler pointed out that, even if Douglas decided to license and permit businesses, “we don’t have enough staff to do ongoing inspections.” He said they would still have to rely on voluntary reporting by businesses.
When counties don’t have a system to regulate potentially dangerous businesses, it falls to the state fire marshal and state environmental officials. But state fire officials say they don’t have the necessary staff to do regular inspections either.
And they argue that knowing about such businesses might enable inspections that could catch dangerous situation such as those which caused the explosion at Depressurized Technologies Inc. near the Minden Airport.
The September 2001 blast killed one and seriously injured four other workers. The plant was unregistered and, according to state officials and lawyers for the victims, guilty of violating a number of health and safety rules.
State officials are seeking fines totaling $144,000 from DTI.
Holler told the legislative committee studying the dangers of industrial accidents in Nevada that Douglas went through a long process studying the idea of licensing businesses in the 1990s, but never enacted ordinances.
“Business organizations in the county came out in relatively strong opposition to any kind of a business license,” he said.
As a result, Douglas, like some other small Nevada counties, has no licensing system for the estimated 3,000 businesses in the county.
Instead, Holler said the four fire organizations in the county are moving forward with a voluntary system they believe will provide good information for emergency and safety people.
Study committee chairman Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, told Holler the county needs to be able to identify potentially dangerous businesses to make sure there isn’t another incident.
“The worst conceivable thing that could happen is something happens between now and the end of the (legislative) session,” he said.
DTI isn’t the only incident. In 1998, Sierra Chemical east of Reno suffered an explosion which killed more than one worker and there has been at least one blast in southern Nevada in the past two years.
The committee will make recommendations on how to improve safety in Nevada’s industrial plants.