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A+ for Alliances
 
OSHA's newest cooperative programs are making inroads
with an ever-growing number and variety of workplaces and industries.


by Nilgun Tolek


Signing

OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw, first row, center, gathers with representatives of 13 airlines and the National Safety Council's International Air Transport Section to sign an alliance promoting worker safety and health in the industry.

Alliances are the newest of OSHA's cooperative programs. They provide a novel means for the agency to achieve its mission of preventing injuries and illnesses-by collaborating with organizations that share OSHA's commitment to improving workplace safety and health.

OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw sees alliances as a natural extension of Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao's department-wide effort to increase outreach and assistant efforts. "We in OSHA have expanded our cooperative programs to include this new way of working with OSHA," Henshaw told members of the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc., as he welcomed them into their new alliance with OSHA in September. "We're leveraging resources by jointly promoting safe and healthful working conditions in many industries through associations like yours."

According to Paula White, director of Cooperative and State Programs, organizations are highly receptive to the idea of alliances, which are open to all-trade or professional organizations, businesses, labor organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies. OSHA stakeholders recognize the many benefits to participating in an alliance, such as building trusting, cooperative relationships with the agency; networking with others committed to workplace safety and health; leveraging resources to maximize worker safety and health protection; and gaining recognition as proactive leaders in safety and health.

Alliances have few formal program requirements. Unlike OSHA's Strategic Partnerships, they have no enforcement component and no data-gathering requirements. Alliances are also unique in that they are not site-based agreements focused on conditions at a particular workplace or workplaces. Rather, they focus on outreach, education, or dialogue within entire industries or sectors.

Although they are less structured than other cooperative agreements, alliances do require OSHA and the participating organizations to define, implement, and meet a set of short- and long-term goals. Goals may focus on training and education, outreach and communication, or promoting the national dialogue on workplace safety and health. Once the alliance is signed, OSHA and its allies form an implementation team to develop strategies and begin working toward these goals.

Lee Anne Jillings, director of the Office of Outreach Services and Alliances, said some organizations that enter into alliances with OSHA may be building on existing relationships with the agency through other cooperative programs. "But what's particularly promising," she said, "are the cases in which an organization may be entering a cooperative relationship with OSHA for the first time."

Alliances represent an important step in the agency's efforts to make inroads with an ever-growing number and variety of workplaces and industries. They also demonstrate to OSHA's allies that safety and health add value.

Alliances themselves add value to workplaces, as OSHA and its allies collaborate to make resources available through print and electronic media-particularly through sharing information via the Internet, in links to one another's websites, and in appearances at conferences and meetings. These initiatives enable OSHA and its allies to share information and experience and to break down barriers to communication between the agency and the regulated community.

Since the Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc., joined hands with OSHA in the agency's first alliance last March, 35 companies, organizations, and associations have followed suit in 18 more alliances. Many more alliances are in the works.

"Alliances are helping us break down barriers, enabling OSHA to establish new relationships, and opening new doors in the agency's effort to promote workplace safety and health," said White. "And the best thing about these new alliances is that they're already making a difference."

Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc.

Last spring, for example, the leadership of the Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc. (HCA), noticed increasing media coverage of higher fatality rates among Hispanic construction workers in the already high-fatality construction industry. "We met Assistant Secretary Henshaw, and he told us about the U.S. Department of Labor's effort to reach Hispanic workers in construction," said HCA Executive Director Jerry Adriano. "We told him that we want to be part of the solution!" The result was OSHA's first alliance.


First Alliance Agreement Signing

Jerry Adriano, left, executive director of the Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc., joins with OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw to sign OSHA's first alliance agreement. With them, at right, is Paul Rodriguez from the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

So far, the alliance has marketed the onsite Consultation Service to HCA members to raise awareness of available assistance. It is identifying bilingual individuals to take the OSHA 30-hour train-the-trainer construction course so that they will be certified to teach the safety classes to member employers and their workers. OSHA and HCA participated in several conferences to raise awareness of Hispanic fatalities in the construction industry and the alliance's role in trying to prevent them. These include the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce Annual Convention, the South Texas Construction Conference, and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Convention.

In addition, the HCA invited Nilgun Tolek, the alliance's coordinator, to its annual meeting to discuss OSHA programs, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics findings on workplace injuries and fatalities, progress of the alliance, and plans to address members' needs through training and outreach materials. Tolek also received valuable input on ways OSHA can help startup and growing contractors understand and comply with OSHA regulations.

"The alliance between HCA and OSHA is a very important strategy to help reduce an alarming rate of Hispanic workforce accidents and fatalities," said Adriano. "Through this alliance, we are working to reduce those numbers significantly throughout the United States so our workforce can put in a hard day's work and go home each day to share the fruits of their labor with their families and friends."

Adriano said the benefits of the alliance transcend individual workers and worksites. "With a strong safety-oriented workforce," he said, "we can continue to contribute to the economy of the most wonderful country in the world."

Risk and Insurance Management Society

Another OSHA alliance, with the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), focuses on the exchange of technical information and best practices that demonstrate the benefits and business value of safety and health management systems. The alliance, signed last April, also focuses on establishing and improving communication between OSHA and RIMS' member organizations.

So far, the alliance has already demonstrated some early successes. Key RIMS members conducted a comprehensive review of OSHA's "Safety Pays" eTool and are helping the agency update the program to incorporate real-life examples from the society's members. RIMS also will help incorporate a risk management perspective to many of OSHA's products, reinforcing the OSHA message, "Safety and health add value to your business."

Two RIMS executives addressed the OSHA compliance assistance conference to educate OSHA's compliance assistance specialists about the risk management perspective on workplace safety and health. Another panel of OSHA representatives is slated to discuss the agency's four-pronged approach to ergonomics at the RIMS annual conference in April.

Michael D. Phillipus, RIMS vice present for communications and external affairs, said the alliance provides "a great opportunity for expanded dialogue between regulators and business.

"We have a great opportunity to learn from each other in the area of safety and health," he said, "and we look forward to an increased exchange of information, ideas, and technology."


Printer

Protecting workers in the printing and graphic arts industries is the goal of an alliance between OSHA, the Printing Industries of America/Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, Screenprinting and Graphic Imaging Association International, Flexographic Technical Association, and Envelope Manufacturers Association.

Printing Industry

Another of OSHA's alliances, signed last summer, is committed to preventing ergonomic injuries and illnesses in the printing and graphics arts industries. OSHA joined forces with the Printing Industries of America/
Graphic Arts Technical Foundation, Screen printing and Graphic Imaging Association International, Flexographic Technical Association, and Envelope Manufacturers Association to share best practices and technical knowledge among the allies.

"This alliance is the first of many we expect to sign with industries that are moving forward to address ergonomics as part of their effort to strengthen safety and health in their workplaces," said Henshaw.

Already, the members are working together to develop ergonomics guidelines for the industry. In addition to raising 75 percent of the funds for the research behind the guidelines, the group put together the project team and the advisory committee. They recently completed the research and drafted the guidelines. By the close of this fiscal year, pocket cards, fact sheets, and training will be ready for delivery industry-wide. The group also plans to produce a workbook in both English and Spanish.

More Alliances

These success stories are just the beginning. Many more are expected to emerge as OSHA enters into more alliances with an ever-expanding variety of industries.

With the addition of alliances to its well-equipped toolbag, OSHA continues to break down barriers and make it easier for trade associations, companies, professional societies, and labor unions to cooperate with OSHA.
Most importantly, alliances are already making a genuine difference in workers' safety and health. "This is what OSHA is all about: the continuing reduction of injuries, illnesses, and deaths in America's workplaces," Henshaw told the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. "And I hope you're as proud as I am that you are joining with us to make that a reality."

For more information about alliances, visit the OSHA website at www.osha.gov. Click on Alliances under Cooperative Programs. JSHQ

Tolek is a program analyst in OSHA's Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs, Washington, D.C.


Alliances

  • Airlines Alliance-Air Canada, Airtran Airways, Alaska Airlines, America West airlines, American Airlines, American Trans Air, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jetblue Airlines, Midwest Express Airlines, Southwest Airlines, U.S. Airways, United Airlines, National Safety Council, International Air Transportation

  • American Apparel and Footwear Association

  • American Biological Safety Association

  • American Industrial Hygiene Association

  • American Meat Institute

  • American Society of Safety Engineers

  • American Textile Manufacturers Institute

  • Construction Management Association of America, Inc.

  • Dow Chemical Company

  • Hispanic Contractors of America, Inc.

  • Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc.

  • National Arborist Association

  • National Association of Shooting Ranges and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute

  • Printing Alliance-Envelope Manufacturers Association; Flexographic Technical Association; Printing Industries of America, Inc./GFTA; Screenprinting and Graphic Imaging Association

  • Risk and Insurance Management Society

  • Sealant, Waterproofing, and Restoration Institute