National Safety Council Congress & Expo
Orange County Convention Center
Jonathan L. Snare
Acting Assistant Secretary
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
- Good afternoon. Welcome to the National Safety Council Congress & Expo. I am delighted to be here and to speak with you today.
- I hope you enjoyed Connie Podesta's speech entitled "Life Would be Easy if it Weren't for Other People - The Challenge of Dealing With Difficult People" earlier today. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about that this afternoon. I am speaking with a panel of people who are very easy to get along with. In fact, this is our second panel together in as many days. My biggest challenge is lifting my performance up to their high standards.
- But enough about them…
- I'm here to talk to you about what OSHA is doing to help employers and employees reduce occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities. I'm here to give you an update about the incredible efforts of the relief workers down on the Gulf Coast. I'm here to talk about milestones in OSHA's cooperative programs. I'm here to tell you about our targeted approach to enforcement. And I will talk a little bit about the outreach and compliance assistance efforts that are helping companies better identify and reduce the risk of hazards.
- That's a lot to cover, so I'm going to get right to it.
Worker Safety and Health Annex
- One year ago, the National Safety Council Congress & Expo was held in New Orleans. Or at least that was the plan. The conference was cut short because a hurricane was headed for the city. We were evacuated but thankfully the city was spared.
- One year later, it is bittersweet and extraordinarily humbling to see the devastation in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf Coast. The devastation is unimaginable.
- OSHA is playing two key roles in the disaster response effort. OSHA personnel are on the ground, fulfilling our core mission by providing technical assistance for workers involved in the clean-up efforts.
Providing Support, Distributing Information
- Our second role involves the coordination of the federal workers and agencies participating in the relief effort as part of the Worker Safety and Health Annex. The Annex was invoked for the first time ever in response to Hurricane Katrina.
- As part of the National Response Plan, it was developed to ensure that safety and health issues are anticipated, recognized, evaluated and controlled consistently during times of crisis. We eagerly accept this mission and the challenge of coordinating the safety and health dimensions of the relief effort.
- More than 17,000 healthcare professionals, 40,000 members of the National Guard and the U.S. Army and tens of thousands of construction workers, relief workers and cleanup crews are currently working in the disaster area.
- They face a variety of safety and health challenges, from toxic water and mold to more traditional dangers such as fall hazards, chainsaws, trenches, unstable structures and electrocution.
World Trade Center and Past Hurricanes
- We have developed and distributed a variety of materials designed to provide pragmatic information about how to identify and reduce the risk of exposure to these and other hazards. This includes a dozen Public Service Announcements that have been airing on radio stations throughout the region, and more than 100,000 fact sheets and QuickCards on a variety of hazards.
- We also have been constantly updating our website with the materials that are helpful for the various stages of the recovery effort. In the last three weeks, more than 50,000 people have visited the hurricane assistance website on www.osha.gov.
- We also are marshalling our resources to provide technical assistance. OSHA personnel have already conducted more than 1,000 interventions, working directly with crews on the ground to make sure they have the proper safety equipment, know the proper safety procedures and understand the importance of acting accordingly.
- We pulled a 10-year old boy off of a slick roof while he was helping his dad's construction crew clear debris, none of whom were wearing fall protection. We saved a tree trimmer who unknowingly was working within a foot of an 18,000 volt power line. And we've intervened in hundreds of other situations like this. With the support of NIOSH and other agencies, we are doing our very best to minimize the risks of those working to rebuild the lives of those who lost everything.
Fulfilling OSHA's Mission
- We've been here before. On 9/11, the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. On 9/12, OSHA was there, helping to ensure that the rescue, recovery and clean up was done safely and did not bring further sorrow.
- Twisted rebar, unstable ground and fires that were still burning for days - these are just a few of the hazards faced by the thousands of workers who were there to lift all of us up from Ground Zero. And yet we did it. Working under the most hazardous conditions, not a single life was lost in those most harrowing days.
- And last year, after a record number of hurricanes struck Florida, we immediately sent crews, information and materials to the affected areas. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed. The clean-up and reconstruction was so extensive that the effort is still going on to this day, not far from where we are here in Orlando. Thankfully, not a single worker died during this difficult and hazardous operation either.
History of Success
- OSHA was created 34 years ago to assure the safety and health of America's workers. Most of OSHA's work is conducted under fairly typical working conditions. We are at construction sites, on factory floors, amidst ditches, on highways and in retail stores - 7 million worksites in all.
- But we are also there when the ditches are overflowing with flood waters, when the highways are blocked by splintered debris, when factories are quiet, when the stores are empty, and when the construction site is 900 square miles of a devastated coastline spread across three states.
- We are looking at the biggest reconstruction effort in the history of the world. And we will do everything in our power to help ensure that it is the safest reconstruction effort the world has ever seen.
- It is in times like these, of splintered trees and twisted metal, that we test our own mettle, our own courage, our own ability to find hope where there has been hazard - to see a shining city amidst all of the debris.
- The waters will recede, and from them…the great city of New Orleans will rise. The streets will be cleaned…and Biloxi will rise. The coast will be cleared…and Gulfport will rise again.
- We will be there each and every day. We will be there until the job is done. We will ensure that those who come to rebuild the homes and lives of those in need, will return to their own homes again.
- I am confident that we will succeed because we have the resources, people, experience and resolve to do so. We also have a track record of success. Since OSHA was established three decades ago, we have made great advances in reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
- Workplace injuries and illnesses have been on a downward trend for the past 11 years. From 2002 to 2003 - the most recent data we have - the number of injuries and illnesses declined by 7.1 percent. And the last three years have seen the fewest on-the-job fatalities since we started keeping records.
- While these numbers are something we are proud of, it's not the numbers that are important. As we heard yesterday from Shirley Hickman, a mother who tragically lost her son to a workplace accident, every statistic is is more than a number. It's someone's life story - their family and friends, even their children.
- This is what motivates us. Helping to reduce the number of injuries, illnesses and fatalities so that more people will return home safe, happy and whole to their families.
- We will do this by following a "balanced approach" to safety and health. The balanced approach consists of three elements:
- Strong, fair and effective enforcement;
- Outreach, education and compliance assistance; and
- Cooperative and voluntary programs.
- Strong, fair and effective enforcement is the first element of the balanced approach. It is critical to our commitment to continuously improve occupational safety and health. Last year, OSHA exceeded its target for inspections, conducting more than 39,000 and issuing 86,000 citations. We are on track to meet our goals for this year as well.
- Our enforcement philosophy is built on the belief that most companies have the interests of their employees at heart - that they genuinely want to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities. But in those instances where a company has neglected, or outright rejected its responsibility to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of its workers, we will act to rectify the situation.
Outreach, Education and Compliance Assistance
- In order to be as effective as possible, we focus our efforts as on the most dangerous industries and the worst actors. We do this in a number of ways.
- The Enhanced Enforcement Program focuses on employers with the gravest violations who have failed to take their safety and health responsibilities seriously. These are the cases and violations we really want to concentrate on. In Fiscal Year 2004, we had 313 inspections classified as EEP cases. More than 500 EEP cases have been identified this year.
- Site Specific Targeting helps to ensure that we zero in on the right sites to inspect, identifying individual employers in general industry and maritime with the highest injury and illness rates.
- A study conducted last year shows that Site Specific Targeting works. Companies that received our initial letter informing them that their rates are significantly higher than average reduced their rates by about 5 percent over the following 3 years. And the sites that actually were inspected as part of the program reduced injuries and illnesses by 12 to 14 percent over the same period.
- Our targeted approach also includes local and national emphasis programs, which focus on significant and prevailing hazards at the local and national level. We currently have 5 National Emphasis Programs focusing on amputations, lead, silica, ship building and trenching. We are planning an NEP on occupational asthma as well. And we have more than 140 Local Emphasis Programs, developed by our regional and area offices on the basis of what hazards they think need special emphasis in their area. More than half of all inspections are generated in conjunction with local emphasis programs.
- Targeting the most hazardous industries, repeat offenders and the worst actors works.
Cooperative and Voluntary Programs
- Our mission extends beyond enforcing regulations. We are also charged with helping to educate employers and employees about safety and health hazards.
- Our outreach, education and compliance assistance efforts help to provide employers with the knowledge, skills and resources to identify hazards before they cause harm.
- This is the second aspect of the balanced approach. We have had some remarkable accomplishments in this area. Now, I don't want to go into all of the details, but there are a few numbers that really stand out in my mind:
- 335,000 people are taking part in OSHA-sponsored training programs this year.
- 60 million people will visit the OSHA website.
- They will find more than 200 different safety and health topics pages.
- 57,000 people currently subscribe to QuickTakes, our bi-weekly electronic newsletter.
- And we've distributed more than 300,000 QuickCards on trenching hazards.
- That just scratches the surface of what we're up to. More products. Better tools. Incredible services. That is what we're about these days. Providing the information, resources and training to address workplace hazards.
- As with the enforcement program, we are focusing our efforts where help is needed most. We identified 7 target industries with high hazards in our Strategic Management Plan and have been developing outreach materials for each of them.
- We've also implemented an extensive program to reach Hispanic workers. We are working to change this. In the last year, we launched a Spanish-language version of the OSHA website, developed dozens of QuickCards, brochures and other materials with safety guidance, established partnerships with 50 community-based organizations who work with Hispanics, and held the first Hispanic Worker Safety and Health Summit right here in Orlando. And our efforts will continue.
National Safety Council Alliance
- Cooperative and Voluntary Programs are the final element of OSHA's balanced approach to safety and health. OSHA has created Alliances, Partnerships and Voluntary Protection Programs to engage companies, labor organizations and associations committed to safety and health.
- One of OSHA's most successful Alliances is with the National Safety Council. Two years ago, we signed an Alliance designed to leverage the resources of both organizations to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities. A number of the workshop sessions here at the National Safety Congress are the product of the collaborative effort. The Safety Council also has helped to develop and review many OSHA eTools and website Safety and Health Topics Pages.
- I am happy to announce that today we are officially renewing the OSHA/National Safety Council Alliance. We will continue to work together to provide the nation's employers and employees in the general and, the construction industry, small businesses, Hispanic and youth workers, in particular, with information, guidance and access to training resources. We are also making a specific commitment to help reduce injuries and fatalities caused by on-the-job traffic collisions and to improve efforts to provide first aid and automatic external defibrillator training in the workplace.
Voluntary Protection Programs
- The Alliance with the National Safety Council is just one example of the incredible impact that cooperative programs can have on safety and health. We have established more than 600 Alliances and Partnerships.
- And another 700 small businesses are participating in our SHARP program. These companies are selected from the best companies who have received OSHA's Consultation Program services. All in all, more than 500,000 businesses have participated in the free Consultation Program since it was founded 30 years ago.
- And then there is VPP, OSHA's premiere safety and health program. VPP represents the highest levels of commitment to safety and health. Twenty years of demonstrated results prove that it works. On average, VPP sites have 50 percent fewer injuries, and half the lost workdays of other companies in their industries.
- Last month, I had the honor of speaking to at the Voluntary Protection Programs - Participants Association national conference in Dallas. Two thousand people gathered to celebrate the incredible impact and potential of VPP. The excitement could barely be contained in the room. In fact, it couldn't be contained - not in the great state of Texas or even these United States.
- VPP has been so successful here that other countries have taken notice and are seeking to replicate the impact it can have on safety and health. I had the honor of announcing that the GE security facility in Dublin, Ireland has become the first international VPP site.
- This is the incredible potential of VPP, of all of our cooperative programs, and of our combined efforts to build a stronger, more collaborative partnership between government, industry and labor.
- Partnership is critical to the success of each of our organizations. It is collaboration that will help us achieve our collective mission - to continuously improve the safety and health of our workers.
- That is the reason we are here this week. And the reason why we do what we do each and every day. Our life's work is dedicated to protecting the lives of those we work with. I cannot think of a better occupation, or a better reason for all of us to gather here in Orlando.
- Thank you for being a part of the solution. Thank you for being here this week.
- I would like to thank Alan McMillan, Bobby Jackson, Leo Carey and their staff for all of the arrangements they have made to make this 93rd National Safety Council Congress & Expo such a success.
- Thank you.