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  Assistant Secretary's Message

John HenshawIs OSHA making a difference in our nation's workplaces? Definitely-along with the thousands of individuals outside the agency striving to improve workplace safety. Injuries and illnesses have been declining for nine years and hit an all-time low of 5.7 per 100 workers in 2001. Envision, if you will, the number of people who are alive and well today enjoying their families because of this great work.

Can we do more to accelerate these declines? Absolutely-and we must. We must eliminate fatalities and drive injury and illness rates toward zero. We must promote a culture change in U.S. workplaces that emphasizes the value of safety and health.

What we need is a management plan to help direct us in achieving this vision. Fortunately, we have one. OSHA's new strategic management plan for 2003 to 2008 charts a course designed to keep us focused and on track to this vision. It will guide in helping employers and employees establish safety and health cultures on the job that will lead to fewer occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths. It's a carefully crafted blueprint that outlines what we need to do to get where we want to be.

Developed by a cross-cutting team, our new plan builds on the success of the agency's initial five-year plan that spanned 1997 to 2002. We should be proud of our accomplishments. We reached many goals during the past five years: reducing amputations and lead exposures, cutting injuries and illnesses at sites where we conducted inspections or established partnerships, and minimizing fatalities in construction, although not as much as we had hoped.

For the next five years, we are focusing on three fundamental goals: reducing occupational hazards through direct intervention; promoting a safety and health culture through compliance assistance, cooperative programs, and strong leadership; and maximizing OSHA effectiveness and efficiency by strengthening the agency's capabilities and infrastructure.

Focusing on these fundamental goals should lead us to significant achievements: a 15-percent drop in fatality rates and a 20-percent drop in injury and illness rates. That's a true measure of significant progress toward our mission.

We have tremendous opportunities and a tremendous responsibility. All of us know there can be no work more rewarding, no job more fulfilling than helping to protect the lives and well-being of the working men and women who keep our nation strong. I continue to be impressed with the talent and skills we have within the agency. We can and will accomplish our goals on behalf of all workers in America.

I look forward to working with all of you in the coming years toward achieving the promise of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970-a safe and healthful working environment for our nation's working men and women. JSHQ

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