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  Assistant Secretary's Message
John Henshaw photo One of my top priorities as administrator of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is strong, fair, and effective enforcement. Enforcement is the tool that undergirds others such as compliance assistance and partnerships. The number of federal OSHA inspections has remained fairly steady in recent years. But this year we will conduct about 400 more inspections than in 2001. In 2003, we'll add 1,300 more inspections.

We are continually refining our targeting process to focus on the specific workplaces where workers are most likely to get hurt or sick. Each year, we survey about 80,000 employers in high-hazard industries to learn about their specific injury and illness experience.

Several months ago, we sent letters to more than 13,000 of the worksites we surveyed advising them that they had high injury and illness rates. Workplaces with eight or more injuries and/or illnesses per 100 workers received these letters. We suggested strategies employers might try to improve their safety and health effort, and offered our help through consultation or training and education.

We plan to inspect about 3,400 high-rate employers as part of our Site-Specific Targeting program. Those with the highest rates are the prime candidates for these inspections. In addition, as part of a new national emphasis program, OSHA will inspect about 1,000 nursing or personal-care facilities. We are serious about driving down injuries and illnesses in our nation's workplaces. The place to focus inspections is with those who need to do a better job protecting their workers, and that's where we will begin.

But OSHA inspections must be more than checking off violations, writing up citations, and calculating penalties. This is an opportunity to create change. Every time we conduct an inspection we have a chance to take a negative situation and create a positive outcome. And that outcome is hazard reduction. We don't just want to show employers where they have gone wrong. We want to show them how they can do it right and sell them on the value of injury and illness prevention.

We all want to make a difference. We all want to ensure a safe workplace, and the employer has that primary responsibility. We need to make sure we take full advantage of the inspection opportunity as well as execute a strong and fair enforcement process. We need to make sure the employer has the opportunity to be successful in the future. If we do our job well, we won't need to return to an employer a second or a third time to cite the same violations, and the workers will have a safe and healthful place in which to work. An employer has a legal and moral responsibility to safeguard employees. That's a given. We have an obligation to use every tool in our toolbox to help the employer realize that goal.

Our front line-our first team in reducing injuries and illnesses-is composed of OSHA safety and health officers. Our first team needs to have the expertise, the credibility, and the authority to garner the respect of all employers and provide appropriate guidance to them on worker safety and health issues. The best way to establish that expertise and enhance effectiveness and credibility is through training and professional certification. As you know, we are improving our initial training curriculum and continuous education efforts through the OSHA Training Institute. We also have a cross-agency team studying how we might more effectively value and foster professional certification as well as cover the costs associated with professional certifications.

I am often asked when talking to folks from outside the agency, what has been your biggest surprise since coming to OSHA? I tell them I never realized how many highly qualified and mission-driven folks we have in the agency. I just did not see the talent and the mission-driven focus we have as I see it now. We have a lot to be proud of, and the Secretary and the Administration have expressed their thanks for the great work we do and the results we achieve. The potential for even greater achievements is possible if we are to effectively use all the tools at OSHA's disposal. These tools are designed to involve, in one way or another, employers, employees, trade associations, labor unions, professional organizations, and other stakeholders to reduce injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace. That is our mission, that is who we are, and we must join with all those who care about workplace safety and health to do everything we can to achieve it.

John Henshaw signature
John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health