||As Prepared for Delivery
National Environmental, Health & Safety Conference for the
Graphic Communications Industries
March 24, 2003
Where We Are...
- Good morning. It is an honor and a pleasure to be here today. My thanks to Doreen (Monteleone, director of membership and environmental services for the Flexographic Technical Association and program chair) for providing me the opportunity to update you on some of OSHA's recent activities and, most importantly, on how we're working with you to implement the alliance we signed with you last year.
- The short of it on implementing the alliance is simply put...terrific! We're witnessing lots of progress and successes ... building on those successes...and we stand ready to reinforce those successes. Hopefully, they will be replicated in some of the other alliances we've recently forged.
- I'd like to thank Marci Kinter, Mike Robertson (Screenprinting & Graphic Imaging Association), Gary Jones, Wendy Lechner, Ben Cooper (Printing Industries of America/Graphics Arts Technical Foundation), Maynard Benjamin, Tonya Muse (Envelope Manufacturers Association) and Doreen for their work in getting our alliance off the ground and then keeping it in the air.
- In fact, our Alliance with the four printing industry associations is one of our hardest working. In the past nine months, the implementation team has:
- Invited OSHA to participate in several conferences like this one.
- Written several articles in trade newsletters and magazines.
- You have spoken at our first annual Compliance Assistance Conference as well as to other groups about your participation in the OSHA Alliance Program.
- And you've helped us help you and others by giving us feedback on the need for greater clarity in explaining some of our regulations and the relationship between federal regulations and those of our state partners.
- I know that your leadership has very conscientiously spent hours talking to others-in the printing industry and outside it-about the value of collaborating with OSHA. Special thanks go to Wendy Lechner for this work.
- You've given us input on the ergonomics eTool for the printing industry, which is still in draft form but will be ready for the public within a few weeks.
- And best of all, as I've already hinted, your draft guidelines are virtually finished-am I right?
- And I'm very pleased indeed to have been asked to announce to you that PIA/GATF, SGIA, FTA, and EMA-I feel like the typesetter went wild here and I'm reading the alphabet randomly-will be the first to renew an Alliance with OSHA, in about three more months when the term of our agreement is up... This will usher in the training, education and outreach phase of working together to spread the word on ergonomics and your guidelines. And any other issue the team decides it needs to tackle.
- It takes the dedication, commitment and hard work of all of us ---employees and managers, government and industry --- working together to protect the American worker's safety and health.
- Among other benefits, our alliance with your industry helps us leverage resources to maximize worker safety and health protection. We combine our voices and our expertise and we affect more people than any one of us could reach and affect alone.
- And through our Alliance, we send a strong, clear message: Safety and health add value: To your business. To your workplace. To your life. More on this soon.
- But I've just begun telling you about the good news from OSHA...let's take a quick look at the overall injury and illness record for the United States.
- Over the past 30 years, workplace fatalities have been cut 62 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined 40 percent.
- Injuries and illnesses in 2001 continued on a downward trend and were the lowest in nine years. Over the past years, fatality rates were essentially unchanged.
What OSHA is Doing
- As I said before, safety and health add value: To your business. To your workplace. To your life. The message bears repeating.
- The value for business is clear: focusing on safety and health programs is the right thing to do; it saves money and adds value to the organization.
- Safety and health add value to the workplace as well. The benefits include increased productivity, higher quality, improved morale and reduced turnover.
- Clearly, safety and health add value to life. For workers, getting hurt or sick is not just physically painful. On-the-job injuries and illnesses can significantly reduce income, increase stress and hinder a full family life.
- To drive down injuries and illnesses, OSHA is focusing on three strategies -
- Strong, fair, effective enforcement
- Outreach, education and compliance assistance and
- Partnerships and voluntary programs
- A strong enforcement program underlies everything else we do...and where we must use enforcement to get employers' attention...we will.
- A few weeks ago we announced OSHA's Enhanced Enforcement Program. It will focus on those employers who have received "high gravity" citations. High gravity citations are issued when an employer's violations are considered to be at the highest level of severity.
- Last month, we alerted some 14,200 employers across the country that their injury and illness rates are higher than average and encouraged them to take steps to reduce hazards and protect their workers. This year marks the first time the construction industry was included in the notification.
Outreach, education and compliance assistance
- One of the changes that OSHA has made is paring down its regulatory agenda. We've stopped publishing a lengthy "wish list" and started putting out a realistic "to-do" list.
- In addition, we've changed the name of the directorate in charge of writing standards, to reflect our change in approach. It is now called the Directorate of Standards and Guidance.
- Standards and enforcement form the foundation-and we will pursue them ... but there may be quicker, more effective ways to reduce injuries and illnesses ... and we must perfect those strategies to make the biggest impact we can.
Partnerships and Voluntary Programs
- The first is outreach, education and compliance assistance.
- We've promised to expand assistance for those who want to do the right thing. And we're keeping that promise.
- At the end of last year we expanded the number of our training centers from 12 to 20-at 35 locations nationwide.
- And we have 67 compliance assistance specialists and 50 state consultation service organizations.
- We've taken a number of steps to reach out to Hispanic workers ...
Our toll-free help line offers assistance in English and Spanish
...we now have a Spanish web page ... and publications in Spanish.
- OSHA has another outreach effort I want to be sure you're aware of - QuickTakes - our e-mail news memo. Just two pages twice a month keeps you up to date. Launched a year ago, we now have more than 30,000 subscribers.
- Another important strategy for reducing injuries and illnesses is partnerships.
- Of course, our premier partnership program is the Voluntary Protection Programs. Last year we celebrated VPP's 20th anniversary year. We're proud of the 940 sites recognized by that program for their exemplary safety and health programs.
- But OSHA covers 7 million sites-so 940 is a tiny, tiny fraction of that number-not 1% but 1/100th of 1%. We need many, many more sites on the road to excellence.
- So, I challenged those who've already reached excellence to help us make a quantum leap-from 940 sites ... to 8,000 sites. I challenge you as well. Help us draw more workplaces onto the pathway to excellence in workplace safety and health.
- I know that you, through your Alliance, are helping us with this. Paula White was recently invited to attend a meeting of the SGIA Safety and Health Committee to speak about ways to parlay association-level participation in the Alliance into company-level commitment to VPP and other recognition programs.
- If you convince even one company to strive for VPP, I'll be grateful, because it's clear that VPP adds value. Thousands of injuries and illnesses have been avoided. At least as many dollars have been saved. VPP vales reach into people's lives, even away from the job.
- Of course, I'll be even more grateful if you convince a thousand companies to join VPP, because I'm looking for those 8,000 sites...
- As we expand VPP, we are going to expand our strategic partnerships. We now have 179 such partnerships involving more than 6,500 employers and covering nearly 200,000 workers.
- And, of course as you know, we've also created a new form of partnership ... alliances. Alliances focus on getting out the word on the value of safety and health.
- We now have 21 national Alliances, with more than 40 associations and companies, potentially affecting thousands of worksites. We're looking for many more. The purpose is to sign on others to work with us on reducing injuries and illnesses with various groups, including professional societies, industry associations and educational institutions.
- Let's talk about where we're going with ergonomics. Almost a year ago, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced a new four-pronged approach to address musculoskeletal disorders. It includes industry-specific guidelines, enforcement through the general duty clause, outreach and assistance and research recommendations with the help of an advisory committee.
- Our goal is simple. Musculoskeletal disorders represent one-third of the injuries American workers experience every year. And we want to reduce those numbers as quickly as possible. This plan is the best way to do that.
- So far we have identified three industries for OSHA guidelines---nursing homes, retail groceries and poultry processors. We released our final nursing home guidelines on March 13. And we'll be issuing a draft guideline for retail groceries very soon.
- OSHA has begun drafting guidelines for the poultry industry, which are expected to be available for public comment in the near future. And we'll be announcing plans to develop guidelines for another industry shortly.
- In addition to the guidelines we're developing, we're looking to individual industries to work on guidelines of their own...You know that, because you were the first to step up to the plate, nine months ago, to do just that. Others have followed.
- In addition to the guidelines you have developed, the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and the state of North Carolina are working together to develop ergonomics guidelines for furniture manufacturing.
- And the Society of the Plastics Industry has established an Ergonomics Work Group to first conduct research and then develop guidelines for their industry. Understanding that this will take some time, under their Alliance with OSHA, they are already doing outreach. This includes offering ergonomics workshops taught by an OSHA ergonomist at their triennial plastics expo.
- And, we've signed 12 national ergonomics Alliances. In addition to your industry, other allies are working with OSHA on a variety of best practice products.
- For example,
- The Airlines will work with OSHA to improve its eTool on baggage handling, develop a biomechanics training module for employees and hold a workshop on ergonomics at a major safety conference.
- The American Meat Institute will develop ergonomics training and educational materials and will provide information in Spanish and other languages.
- The American Industrial Hygiene Association will share hazard recognition strategies and tools as well as data on solutions to ergonomic hazards with OSHA and others.
- Also, OSHA currently has 10 strategic partnerships with a focus on ergonomics.
- In addition, our new 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics met for the first time in January. They'll assist us in many areas, but I've particularly asked them to begin helping us find ways to translate science into practice in ergonomics. Small employers need practical guidance ... and we need to offer it.
- On enforcement ... I know our approach has been touted as a voluntary program. But we want to make very clear that reducing ergonomic hazards and providing a safe workplace is not voluntary.
- Does that mean OSHA will be enforcing guidelines? No, definitely not. But what it does mean is that employers who have problems with MSDs in the workplace need to address them.
- Last summer, we announced a national emphasis inspection program for nursing homes. We have conducted about 390 inspections under this program.
- During 2002 and early 2003, we conducted an additional 103 inspections focused on ergonomics in a variety of industries. Nearly half are still open; we've sent 22 hazard alert letters on ergonomic concerns.
- I have a theory ... and I'd like to see us work together to test it. My theory is that there is a greater commitment to providing a safe and healthful working environment than ever before ... and if we reach out to employers, to workers, to professionals, to associations, working together we can achieve results that are greater than the sum of our individual efforts.
- Everyone has a stake in workplace safety and health ... government officials, safety and health professionals, individual workers and managers and family members. We play different roles... but we share a common goal-keeping workers whole and healthy and on the job.