John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health
U.S. Department of Labor
National Safety Congress
New Orleans, Louisiana
September 14, 2004
(As Prepared for Delivery)
- Good morning. I'm glad to be here at the National Safety Congress.
- My remarks this morning will focus on two things: the progress OSHA is making in 2004 - but as I do that keep in mind that there is much more we need to do and we need your innovative and creative ideas to continuously improve. The second issue I want to talk about is a new initiative we are launching this week which will result in fewer deaths on the job, reduce thousands of workplace injuries, and save millions of taxpayer dollars.
- Now, as a safety and health professional, I am interested in one thing -- results -- reducing what I call the triple bottom line (TBL) of injuries, illnesses and loss of life.
- As someone once said, "The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but whether you brought in the ship."
- I wouldn't say that our ship has come in until we reach our ultimate goal of zero -- a TBL of zero. But we are making progress and we are on course. Workplace loss of life declined by 6.6% according to the latest BLS fatality census -- the lowest ever recorded.
- And workplace injuries and illnesses are also declining, in some cases dramatically despite an increase in total employment.
- The triple bottom line is the ultimate measure of our success. I have a compass on my desk as a reminder to me to set the proper course to reach that ultimate zero TBL, to stay the course and constantly check our course to assure that we achieve maximum progress toward that target or maximum return on our investment.
- Our course is a balanced approach with strong, fair and effective enforcement; outreach, education and compliance assistance; and partnerships and cooperative programs.
- In enforcement:
- We've increased inspections by nearly 10% from 2000 to 2003. And we will exceed our inspection goals for FY 2004.
- We've strengthened our inspection process to achieve better results toward the triple bottom line by establishing an Enhanced Enforcement Program. This five-pronged approach is designed to address employers who've been repeatedly cited, but haven't corrected their problems.
- More than 200 inspections conducted thus far this year fall into this category.
- And we are filing section 11(b) actions with the courts and seeking contempt orders, as sites do not fulfill their obligations under the settlements.
- We will count these as successes only if these sites change their workplaces, achieve sustainable compliance and reduce the triple bottom line.
- We're also improving our inspection targeting system.
- A recent study showed that our site specific targeting (SST) program is effective.
- When we sent letters to the 14,000 employers who have high injury and illness rates -- their injury and illness rates improved by 5% over the subsequent three years.
- And when we followed up with an inspection of the workplace, they experienced a 12 to 13.8% drop in injuries and illnesses over the next three years.
- Earlier this summer, we asked for public comments on the SST program, so that we can make it even more effective.
- Davis Layne [Deputy Assistant Secretary], Rich Fairfax [Director of Enforcement Programs], and our regional administrators are doing a great job and are interested in improving this program.
- We are also improving our people and processes.
- We are updating our directives and making good progress in increasing our professional certifications.
- We have almost doubled the number of certified OSHA professionals in just three years.
- And through our OSHA Training Institute, Hank Payne and his team are revising our training program for compliance officers, which we expect to begin at this time next year.
- Our revised training program focuses on 20 job competencies.
- It will increase required training from the current 8 weeks to a 10- to 12-week program.
- And late next month,we will offer a new "Criminal Investigation Course" to improve our investigative abilities to support criminal actions if necessary.
- Now to the Regulatory front...
- And I am proud of our regulatory agenda and what we are accomplishing. The regulatory agenda is no longer providing cover for us -- and believe me, I have experienced that lack of cover.
- But it lists what we are really working on, and you can hold us accountable for meeting the timelines in the agenda.
- And Steve Witt [Director of Standards and Guidance] is steering this ship and is on course.
- In outreach, education and compliance assistance:
- We've expanded our webpage offerings.
- We now have more than 45 eTools.
- We have MyOSHA and QuickStart to help our 50 million visitors navigate through our website.
- QuickTakes -- our email newsletter now has over 50,000 subscribers.
- Our expanded toll-free helpline (1-800-321-OSHA) will handle more than 160,000 calls this year -- up 17% in just the past two years.
- And in 2003, over 310,000 individuals were trained in safety and health through outreach trainers, Susan Harwood grants, OSHA Education Centers and the OSHA Training Institute.
- In partnerships and cooperative programs:
Our consultation program has more than doubled our SHARP sites from 396 to a projected 825 this year.
- We have substantially expanded every partnership program over the past three years.
And our Strategic Partnerships have increased from 225 to nearly 340 -- more than a 50% increase.
We began with 11 Alliances in 2002; today we have nearly 300 -- including the one with the National Safety Council signed at the National Safety Congress last year. The whole purpose of Alliances is to work with trade associations, unions, employers, professional societies and others to improve worker safety and health among their members.
- I am proud to say we now have 1153 Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) sites -- over a 48% increase since 2001.
- But we want to have more sites participate in VPP -- we want more workplaces developing superior safety and health programs and experiencing a TBL that is 50% below their industry's average.
We want 8,000 sites in the program.
- To get there, we have established two new pilots.
- OSHA Challenge offers a three-phase stepping stone to VPP.
We launched the pilot in May with nine charter administrators who will sponsor about 10 sites each.
- We have also begun our VPP Corporate pilot which is an effort to streamline the application and review process for organizations who have a strong corporate oversight program and who want to bring their workplaces into VPP.
- We have six corporations and the U.S. Postal Service piloting this program.
- The third part of our VPP expansion is VPP Construction.
Two weeks ago we published a proposal in the Federal Register to modify VPP to better fit the needs of the construction industry.
By providing a way for short-term, mobile workplaces to qualify for VPP STAR or Merit, we are creating a better way for contractors, owners, and the public to recognize construction organizations and worksites that have superior safety and health programs and performance.
- It will be a great help for those who try to pre-qualify contractors and subcontractors before they do the work.
- This is the most significant addition to our Voluntary Protection Programs in over 20 years, and it has the potential to make a significant impact on the TBL in high injury, illness and loss of life industries.
- I want to thank Paula White [Director of Cooperative and State Programs], Cathy Oliver [Office of Partnerships and Recognition] and their folks and the industry, union and VPP-PA representatives for helping us take this very important step.
- Please review this Federal Register notice on VPP and share your comments with us.
- You have my word; we will do this in a way that will maintain the quality and integrity of VPP.
- Now let's talk about VPP beyond the U.S.
- Another emerging area for OSHA is the international front.
- We've assisted the safety authorities in Dublin and Belfast to create a VPP-like program for Ireland which was launched in June.
- In July, we signed documents with Mexico that reinforce our cooperation with 45 consulates in the U.S. to assure safe and healthful working conditions for Mexican workers in the U.S.
- Last week, I spoke at the "International Congress on Labour Inspections" -- hosted by Mexico in Mexico City.
- And yesterday, we met with safety and health leaders from both Mexico and Canada to continue our tri-national cooperation on safety and health.
- And in June, we signed an agreement with China to work with the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety on such issues as enforcement, emergency response, the role of private insurance in worker safety and health, raising public awareness on worker safety and health, data collection and analysis, and hazardous chemical regulation and enforcement.
- Two weeks ago, I spoke at the 2nd China International Forum on Work Safety in Beijing and our delegation worked with our Chinese counterparts to develop specific goals and results related to this agreement.
- On the home front, we're continuing to increase our outreach to Hispanic employers and workers.
- In July in Orlando, we held the first ever DOL-OSHA Hispanic Safety and Health Summit for more than 500 workers, employers and others.
- We discussed language and cultural barriers as well as fears and obstacles recent immigrants face as they try to make a living in a new country.
- The purpose of the Summit was to identify and share best practices.
- We heard about how the Operating Engineers, Dell Inc., Miller & Long, and many, many others are addressing the influx of immigrant workers.
- The Summit was a great success, as the 500-plus attendees can attest.
- But we need to do more.
- Now one of the most critical issues we need to address if we want to reduce the TBL is motor vehicle safety.
- Deaths and injuries from traffic crashes are a worldwide concern. Across the globe each year, 1.2 million people are killed. Up to 50 million more are injured.
- As a result, the World Health Organization is focusing on this issue throughout 2004.
- In the U.S., traffic crashes claim 41,000 lives each year and cost our nation $150 billion.
- This is of concern to all of us -- but particularly to those committed to preventing deaths on the job.
- That's because highway incidents are the leading cause of occupational deaths.
- Nearly one-quarter of on-the-job fatalities involve motor vehicle incidents.
- If we're serious about driving toward zero injuries, illnesses and loss of life, we must find a way to reduce fatal and serious injuries in motor vehicle crashes.
- And we've said in our five-year Strategic Management Plan that we will do that through outreach, compliance assistance and partnerships.
- We are now working on several initiatives already in place.
- For example, we're working with the FedNet team of seven federal departments to promote safe driving among teen workers.
- We have an Alliance with the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to share information on best practices. Together, we are working on printed materials, electronic tools on fleet safety, and developing a joint presentation on safe driving practices.
- We have established a Motor Vehicle Safety page on the OSHA website with the help of NETS and through our Alliance with the National Safety Council.
- The page, which will be routinely updated, also includes a number of very useful documents developed by NIOSH.
- And we all know that the single best, proven way to bring down deaths and serious injuries from motor vehicle crashes is to increase the use of seat belts -- not just in the front seats -- but in all seats of a moving motor vehicle.
- If just 1% more Americans used seat belts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that we would save 250 lives, prevent 4,000 moderate-to-critical injuries and cut crash costs by $800 million.
- To look at this from the other side -- seat belts save more than 14,000 lives each year and help us avoid about $50 billion in costs for medical care, lost productivity and other consequences of traffic injuries.
- It's a simple fact that wearing your seat belt can reduce your risk of dying in a traffic crash in a car by 45%, and by as much as 60% in a truck or SUV. Everyone ought to wear a seat belt -- every time they ride, in every seat they sit in, in every vehicle they use.
- OSHA's effort to encourage seat belt use on the job will begin in our own shop, the federal sector.
- The federal government is our nation's largest employer, with nearly 3 million civilian employees.
- The federal government also operates the world's biggest vehicle fleet.
- The U.S. General Service Administration alone has more than 200,000 vehicles. Other federal agencies have additional vehicles.
- Further, we know that motor vehicle safety is a serious concern for government employees.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than half of the state and federal workers who lost their lives on the job from 1992 to 2001 died in transportation incidents.
- About one-fourth of these workers died in motor vehicle crashes -- similar to the private sector rate.
- Today, OSHA is launching "Every Belt - Every Ride."
- This is a promotional campaign to encourage federal workers to wear their seat belts at all times in all stations of a moving motor vehicle.
- Actually, Executive Order 13043 REQUIRES federal employees traveling on public business to wear seat belts -- whether they're driving, riding as passengers -- front seat or back -- in a taxicab or government car.
- We want the federal government to serve as a model for the rest of the country and emphasize the practice of wearing seat belts in all stations of a moving motor vehicle.
- This is our obligation under the current Executive Order and an obligation as a federal worker.
- At 10:30 this morning, we're joining the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in sponsoring a Motor Vehicle Safety Symposium for federal safety and health staff at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
- The symposium features speakers who will discuss the value of seat belt programs and share their experience in managing effective seat belt programs. We have experts from both the public and private sector.
- And Brigadier General Joe Smith, the Director of Army Safety, is our keynote luncheon speaker.
- Through OSHA offices and Federal Field Safety and Health Councils, we'll be distributing "Every Belt-Every Ride" decals as reminders to federal employees to buckle up.
- We've developed flyers for employee bulletin boards, which can be downloaded from our Motor Vehicle Safety webpage and from the federal agency safety and health webpage.
- We'll be making available additional outreach materials such as employee pay slip messages and suggested communications from agency heads.
- We'll encourage federal agencies and departments to follow the Mine Safety and Health Administration's (MSHA) example and provide the National Safety Council's defensive driving course to their employees.
- We're working to offer that course to all Labor Department employees as part of our observance of NETS Drive Safely Work Week, October 4-8.
- While OSHA's focus is the federal workforce, we'd be delighted to see other organizations promote seat belt use for other workers in all stations as well.
- And we'd love to work in partnership with groups that want to do that.
- In closing, OSHA has made some tremendous progress in 2004.
- We've tried to be more business-like and results-oriented, and I am very proud of our people and what we have done in getting maximum return of the taxpayers' investment and the maximum return measured against the triple bottom line. A dollar invested wisely is another life saved or injury or illness avoided.
- We must continue to search for better ways to impact the triple bottom line and improve our return on investment.
- Every day we need to be innovative and creative, evaluate and improve our programs and systems, improve our training and competencies, improve our relationships with employers, workers, associations and the public, and improve our focus on the only result that really counts -- saving workers lives and reducing workplace injuries and illnesses.
- While I am very proud of what we have accomplished over the years, I am more excited about the future and the gains yet to be realized.
- Because of all our efforts and close working relationships more workers will go home to their families healthy and sound than ever before.
- That is what I live for. That is what OSHA exists for, and that is what we all work for.
- Thank you.