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  Assistant Secretary's Message
 
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Henry Ford once said, "Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success." Those words have proven true time and time again. OSHA must work cooperatively with employers, employees, and others to help create a safe and healthful workplace. One of my chief goals is to expand opportunities for aligning resources and working together to strengthen safety and health in the workplace. This collaboration and alignment will produce greater results than the sum of our individual efforts.

The process is simple and straightforward. We start with a shared commitment and a common goal among partners: preventing injuries and illnesses in the workplace. We all stand behind a simple understanding: safety and health add value-to your business, to your workplace, to your life. And each of us seeks out opportunities to work together to identify and control workplace hazards before an injury or illness occurs.

America's workers and businesses deserve our best efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses on the job. To get those positive outcomes, we need to work in partnership.
This summer we celebrate 20 years of success with OSHA's premier partnership-Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP). We estimate our 800-plus sites cover over half a million workers and prevented more than 5,600 injuries in Fiscal Year 2000. As a result, we estimate these sites save more than $150 million annually in direct costs. Those involved in these partnerships would also agree there was additional value derived in improved productivity, quality, and labor/management relationships that may exceed the direct cost savings. Clearly this voluntary partnership offers real gains for both industry and OSHA. We must grow this partnership significantly over the next few years.

Another avenue for cooperation is the OSHA Strategic Partnerships. These partnerships are formal agreements that focus on eliminating specific hazards, establishing comprehensive safety and health management systems, or expanding training opportunities. Today, there are 139 such partnerships involving more than 6,200 employers and covering nearly 216,000 workers. The results of these partnerships are extremely promising. For example, at Lambeau Field in Wisconsin, home of the Green Bay Packers, a partnership calling for a strong safety and health program and daily audits has resulted in 400,000 hours worked without significant injury.

Over the past several months, OSHA has begun a new cooperative venture called alliances. Alliances are particularly appropriate for joint efforts with trade associations, companies, professional societies, and unions. They may focus on training and education or outreach and communication, or help promote the national dialogue on workplace safety and health.

As we move forward on ergonomics, we'll be collaborating with many groups. We're committed to working with all stakeholders as we develop industry-specific and task-specific ergonomics guidelines. We want to start with the best sources of information-employers and workers in the industry who have put effective practices in place and have a track record to prove that these strategies work. We'll publish draft guidelines in the Federal Register and request additional public comments.

OSHA will work with some industries to develop formal guidelines. Other industries and companies will be encouraged to develop their own guidelines and implementation process for addressing work-related musculoskeletal disorders, including sharing best practices. Our comprehensive ergonomics plan also includes an outreach and assistance component. Cooperative efforts and partnering will be particularly important in executing this component. Already, we've signed an alliance with the printing and graphic communications industry to promote sharing best ergonomics practices.

OSHA's commitment to work with stakeholders in a variety of partnerships supports Labor Secretary Elaine Chao's promise to improve compliance assistance for all those who seek help understanding rules and regulations. In addition, our new small business office will be a great resource to help businesses get the answers they need on safety and health issues.

OSHA is open to additional ideas for ways to work with stakeholders. We will do anything and everything we can to help employers and employees establish safety and health as a core value for every business every day. We want to be a catalyst for changing paradigms so that a safety and health culture becomes the norm.

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