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Assistant Secretary's Message
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Finding the best strategy for reducing injuries, illnesses, and deaths in the workplace requires a good balancing act. OSHA’s approach relies on three equally important legs: strong, fair, and effective enforcement; outreach, education, and compliance assistance; and cooperative programs and partnerships. We intend to use every tool at our disposal to influence employers and workers to make safety and health on the job a top priority.

The end—a safe and healthful workplace—is always the same. But the approach depends upon where the starting point lies.

I really like to focus on outreach and compliance assistance and partnerships. Having spent 25 years in safety and health in the business community, I know that almost every business wants to take good care of employees and safeguard them from potential hazards. These companies want to achieve an injury-free workplace.

Many smaller businesses share this commitment, but welcome a helping hand—an easy-to-understand explanation of what they need to do and how to do it. And OSHA wants to offer that help—on the Internet, on the phone, through consultation, in training sessions, and in personal contacts.

But there remains a small minority of businesses that needs more than a helping hand or a strong nudge to get its workplaces in order. These are the sites that are way back at the starting line—and they don’t seem eager to move out of the gate. These are the sites OSHA wants to target for inspections.

When we conduct inspections, we want to make a strong, positive impact. We don’t want to visit and re-visit worksites. We want to inspect once and make such a significant impression that the site cleans up its act, changes its ways, and reduces hazards. It moves out of the gate and well along the track by reducing injuries, illnesses, and deaths. That is always the ultimate purpose of our inspections—and of everything we do.

When it comes to inspections, OSHA is meeting its pledge. We promised to do 36,400 inspections
in Fiscal Year 2002. And we beat that goal with 37,493 inspections—even though we devoted significant resources to ensuring the safety and health of workers at the World Trade Center disaster site in New York City. I want to extend my personal thanks to each and every compliance officer for all the hard work and effort. We’re committed to completing 37,720 inspections this year—and we’ll meet that pledge as well.

I am particularly pleased that we’re continuing to refine our targeting program to go where the problems are. Of the violations we identified during our inspections last year, 70 percent were serious, meaning these hazards could lead to death or serious harm to workers. That’s the highest percentage of serious violations ever.

We’re zeroing in on the specific worksites where injuries are high through our site-specific targeting program, through our national emphasis program on nursing homes, and through other special emphasis programs that target local hazards. More than ever, we know where we need to go, and we are headed there to get employers to do what they need to do to protect their workers.

Every worker is entitled to a safe and healthful workplace, and OSHA wants to ensure that employers meet their obligations to provide one. In many cases, that means lending a helping hand. But in some cases, it means handing out citations. And, we will not shy away from doing that where inspections prove to be the best strategy to move forward on the continuum toward an injury-free work environment.
John Henshaw signature
John L. Henshaw
Assistant Secretary of Labor for
Occupational Safety and Health