Advisory Committee On Construction Safety And Health
U.S. Department Of Labor
Thursday, April 9, 1998
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
The above-entitled matter was convened, pursuant to notice, at 9:00 a.m.
Tim Lee Nichols
Building and Construction Trades Department
Charles N. Jeffress
Stephan J. Cloutier
J.A. Jones Construction
Dr. Marie Haring-Sweeney
National Safety Council
Stephen D. Cooper
International Association of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Iron Workers
International Union of Operating Engineers
United Assoc. of Journeymen & Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States & Canada
Anzalone & Associates
EEO Officer, Local 138
International Union of Operating Engineers
Jane F. Williams
Safety & Health Consultant
Fretz Construction Company
The Ryland Group
CAO, OSH Enforcement Division of Industrial Relations
Nevada Department of Business and Industry
Russell "Bruce" Swanson
P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. NICHOLS: We appreciate everyone's attendance this morning. We'll get started. I'd like to start as close to the scheduled time as possible. To begin this morning's activities, we passed around to everyone yesterday a copy of The Advisory Committee on Construction and Health, I'm going to send a sheet in both directions. Please look over the information on your name and see if that's correct, phone numbers, fax numbers, e-mails, whatever might be on there. And then pass them back to the front so that we can make sure that we're passing out the right information and not the wrong information. We appreciate your help on that.
MR. SWANSON: May I make an announcement?
MR. NICHOLS: Yes, you may.
MR. SWANSON: I was chided yesterday for not giving out the egresses from this room for fire. The three doors are marked, and there is emergency lighting that will stay lit in the event of fire. And there is a stairwell, which I'm sure you found on the way to coffee, except go down rather than up. You don't have time for coffee if there is a fire. And there's another egress right out here. Both of them go down to the plaza level and you exit the building from both sides. Thank you, sir.
MR. NICHOLS: Not a problem. If we're going to have a fire today let it be when there is plenty of rain outside to help prevent the whole thing from going up. At this time we'd like to start with the special recognition program for construction. And we Assistant Secretary Charles Jeffress, along with Cathy Oliver and Zoltan Bagdy to do the presentation.
MR. JEFFRESS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the chance to lead this off. As I mentioned to you yesterday, this is one of the two areas that I wanted to make sure that we consulted with you and told you where we were headed on this. Stew Burkhammer yesterday was talking about the frustration of a subgroup of this committee, a couple of years ago, who worked so hard on a demonstration project for excellence in construction and saw no outcome from it. They felt like OSHA didn't respond to it and experienced some frustration. I talked to you on the break and said, "Gee, I wasn't really quite prepared for that at the time."
But what you are going to hear this morning from Zoltan and from Cathy is that, in fact, they are going ahead with that very same pilot program, those very same principles that ACCSH came up with a couple of years ago as an outline for how to recognize excellence in construction. So I can't speak to what may have happened in the intervening years and why things may not have gone forward in the past. I'd rather not look at the past, I'd rather to look towards the future.
I'm happy to bring to you today the prospect of our, in fact, going forward with this construction safety excellence demonstration program in these sites. And for several of you who are new, Cathy and Zoltan are going to talk about what the outlines of what the demonstration program is about, as well as a little about where we're proceeding to begin.
But let me say also at the outset, it is a pilot program. There are four sites that have expressed interest in it. These are not the same four sites that Stew was talking about yesterday. Those four sites have closed and gone, so the opportunity to pilot excellence of those sites has passed us by.
But there are four additional sites that we are identifying. And we are proposing to limit the pilot to these four sites. And I'd like to feel very comfortable that this program is well designed and will work in the field and that it is a reasonable kind of program to have, so we don't anticipate opening this up to a lot of any additional participants. We propose going ahead with these four and seeing how these four work and making sure the program works before we expand it any further.
But, again, I wanted to let you know we are in fact being responsive to what Stew said yesterday. This is the same kind of program that ACCSH worked up a couple of years ago, and I'm happy to say we are going forward with it now.
Zoltan, Cathy which of you are going to take the lead on this?
MR. BAGDY: Well, I'll start.
MR. JEFFRESS: Okay.
Special Recognition Programs For Construction
MR. BAGDY Good morning. I'm Zoltan Bagdy. I'm the Deputy Director for Federal and State Operations. And my colleague is Cathy Oliver, Head of the Division of Voluntary Programs. And the Head of the Office of Cooperative Programs is Tyna Coles, sitting behind us just to make sure we are saying the right things.
Again, our topic is to discuss special recognition programs for excellence in the construction industry. And basically we'd like to do two things this morning. I'd like to talk a little bit, very briefly, about OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs. And Cathy is going to discuss in some detail the current proposed pilot program for construction excellence.
Both for background, and I suppose in terms of context, let me just talk about Voluntary Protection Programs. This is OSHA's premier recognition program for those sites with have achieved excellence in safety and health by establishing functioning and successful comprehensive safety and health programs. The major elements of those programs are management leadership, employee involvement, work site analysis, hazard identification and control, and training.
We have considered the value of this program to OSHA through several means. First of all, of course, they provide superior safety and health protection for their own employees. But in addition, they provide OSHA with a model. A model that, indeed, it's possible to establish functioning and successful safety and health programs.
In addition, the sites who are in the program almost serve as an extension of OSHA. They help us in training, they assist other sites who are not in the program at the present time but are interested. So they are very helpful in every aspect of safety and health.
And, finally, they serve as a sounding board, almost as a laboratory as OSHA comes up with new programs, new policies. And as we are designing those and developing those, we are turning to these companies and they provide us with information, recommendations in their own real life experiences.
The criteria for the program are generally the same for all industries, although for construction we take into account that's it a different and more dynamic industry. So, therefore, the requirements are slightly different for line accountability, planning, hazardous estimate, and employee participation.
In terms of process, those who are interested in becoming a member of the Voluntary Protection Program, make an application and undergo an extremely comprehensive, and I must say, a long safety and health program evaluation. The onsite evaluation takes about a week, and we have about four members in each team.
If the evaluation is successful, a decision is made by the Assistant Secretary for approval. And the approval can be either for Star, which is the premier program or the Merit Program, which is the stepping stone to the Star, or one of the demonstration programs.
Once they are approved, the sites undergo further evaluations either annually or within a five year period. And, as you know, they are exempted from program inspections, except of course if we have a complaint or a catastrophe, or a fatality, then of course we investigate those.
At the present time we have close to 350 sites in the Federal program, and these represent 137 companies, 13 industries, and over 200,000 employees, and close to 40,000 contract employees. Overall, these sites have injury and loss case rates 60 percent below the national average.
And I would like to add, through the history of the program, construction has been represented in the lower level of the program. Since the inception of the Voluntary Protection Program, 29 construction programs have been in the program. Currently we have 12. Admittedly, these are long term projects. We require that they have at least a year's data. But, again, we have had construction participation in the program.
So the avenues, the process for becoming of the Voluntary Protection Program are either through the traditional system, and again if it's a long term site, you can apply through the normal traditional procedure. And we also have a so called "Resident Contractor Demonstration Program." These are existing Voluntary Protection Program sites where a contractor may apply for the program. And it's slightly different than the usual requirement that the employer has to have control of the site.
Again, just to point out that those who are currently in the program have injury and loss case rates 84 percent below the industry average. In our estimation, this translates into over $300,000 in direct costs alone and other savings of a similar nature. And now I'm going to ask Cathy to talk about the demonstration program.
MS. OLIVER: Thank you, Zoltan. Good morning. It's good to be here with you this morning to talk about a new limited Construction Demonstration Program. One of the things I'd like to point out, that Mr. Jeffress gave me permission to correct him on, was that we don't, in fact, have four sites and or companies that are ready.
We have one company right now that would really like to get into this program, but there will be additional places for additional companies to come into the program, if they want to. We want to limit it at first to four companies. It's going to be a three year demonstration program. And, as we go along, if we have good experience with those companies, and resources allow us to do so, we may be able to expand the program down the road.
Essentially, the Demonstration Program is very much like the traditional Voluntary Protection Program that Zoltan described. However, what we wanted to do was respond to some of the criticisms that we've had from the construction industry, in terms of their not being allowed to bring sites into the program that are short term sites. In order to handle that, what we decided to do was try to place an additional emphasis on the company's Safety and Health program.
And so we've tried to take a two-phase approach to qualifying sites for the Voluntary Protection Program. The first phase of qualification would mean that a company would submit a Voluntary Protection Program Application to OSHA. And that particular application would be reviewed very much like it is today.
But, again, as Zoltan mentioned, we would place a lot of emphasis in terms of management commitment on written policies, where that particular Safety and Health Program stands in the organization. And, most importantly, the Subcontractor Program. How is it that that company program takes into account the safety and health of the subcontractors at the work site?
In addition, we would look at work site analysis programs such as, is the company looking at their injury data to determine what's going on at these work sites? And are they, in fact, making changes to their programs to respond to those hazards in the work places? Do they do preplanning analysis, do they do phase analysis?
In terms of hazard prevention and control, we're obviously going to take a strong look at the Personal Protective Equipment Program. We're going to take a look to ensure that there is a weekly inspection program at the work site, and make sure that the people that conduct those inspections are very qualified, the safety and health rules at the work site, the emergency response procedures at the work, and so on.
And then, finally, training. Does training go at the supervisor level and at the employee level? And, in fact, if employees are being very much involved in the program, which is pretty much the heart of the Voluntary Protection Program, are those employees trained to do those things that you are asking them to do at the work site, in terms of weekly inspections, incident investigations?
I just want to mention once more how important we believe the employee involvement is. And, generally, our experience is at construction sites. This would be through a joint labor management committee where subcontractors would be involved at the work site.
Also, to qualify, a company would have to have a three year injury rate at or below the industry average. And we would also take a look at the total of the subcontractors for the three years to determine if, in fact, their total injuries are at or below the industry average.
Once we've completed the review of the application at the company level, we plan to go out to the corporate site and actually talk to some of the top level executives at the company to get a feel for their commitment and their leadership in safety and health and to make a final determination whether or not they will qualify for this program.
After the company qualifies, then that company would be eligible to submit site applications to the program for sites that are going to be in existence for at least one year. Because of the nature of getting the approval done and, also, us having to go out onsite to the program to evaluate it, we feel that anything less than one year would put us in a window that we just couldn't work with.
So when we get the site application, what we're looking for is a site implementation plan which would be a streamlined Voluntary Protection Program application. And we feel this will be good for the companies because they won't have to put together comprehensive applications, like for a normal Voluntary Protection Program site, but will be able to give us some abbreviated applications.
We will review those in terms of the program, the implementation plan at the site. And if we determine that that site would probably qualify for VPP, then we would go out to the work site. We would take a team of individuals and actually evaluate that site. And if it was determined that they would meet the VPP qualifications, and the Assistant Secretary would approve it, then that site would be eligible for VPP.
As I mentioned earlier, we are hopeful to get at least four companies into the program with a variety of sites. And our hope is that we'll gain some experience in going out and evaluating short term work sites. We do want to run the program for three years.
And if at the end of that time period this demonstration proves successful, then these requirements would just be incorporated into the standard VPP Excellence Program so that a work site wouldn't have to a year's injury rates to qualify, as Mr. Bagdy talked about earlier.
MR. NICHOLS: Questions?
MR. CLOUTIER: Are you at liberty to say which four companies at this time?
MS. OLIVER: As I mentioned, I really don't have four companies yet that have applied to the program. I do have one company that's very interested.
MR. JEFFRESS: I misspoke on that. We're limited to four sites, but in terms of which four sites they are, those have not been identified yet.
MR. CLOUTIER: What bothers me is I've heard for years we want to get the construction industry in this VPP business to demonstrate excellence. The average construction project doesn't last a year. And those are the people which we should be targeting because that's where we have our accidents and injuries. I know my company starts and stops 100, 125 every year, year in and year out nationwide.
So if we are looking at long term projects, you are looking at the Big Dig in Boston, you are looking at Intel projects, you are looking at Merck. You are looking at the major players that demand safety excellence. You can't even get on the bid list without being a premier contractor with an outstanding safety record. So now the Department is going to go out and look at the best of the best.
And what are we doing for the Merit Shop folks, because most of our projects are bid and whoever is low bid gets the work whether it's a closed shop, whether it's double breasted, whether it's an open shop contractor. And I just feel if we are going to spend six months to a year evaluating the contractor or identify the sites, most of the contractors in the construction industry don't have long term sites, unless it's a long term maintenance contract at a paper mill, at a refinery, or it's a major project like what's going on in Boston.
And that concerns me deeply, as a general contractor, and as a member of this committee that represents a number of folks. We go through the application, by the time you all get to the field to evaluate the job site, it's going to be finished. And what's the base line? You said we had to be at or below the national average.
What about the players that are way below the national average right now? Why can't we side step some of that and get right to the meat of the program and submit sites, because we know we have ongoing programs and upcoming projects that could probably meet this. And I'm curious for some feedback from the group.
MR. JEFFRESS: Let me respond. First, we don't have the solution for how to recognize excellence in every conceivable type or permutation of construction. I recognize that up front. The history that OSHA has has been that we want to see some demonstrated excellence before we give some benefit for it. And if you have a short term site, it is very difficult to demonstrate that and also get recognition.
What we did do at the urging of this group, a couple of years ago, was to say, "Okay, how can we focus the inspections where we go so those folks who are doing a good job and have a exemplary Safety and Health program get some kind of benefit, some kind of credit for that kind of investment?"
And so we started the focus on inspections policy in construction, which I think has been a significant aid to construction sites in terms of reducing the interruption caused by an inspection and giving some benefit to those folks that have a very good program.
So that was one step that OSHA made to try to recognize where people are doing a good job, and how can we carry out our job without at the same time imposing an unnecessary burden on people that are doing a good job already.
This is, as you say, the upper end of it, the longer terms sites where there is a track record for us to look at and evaluate. Can there be more done, other ways of looking at shorter term site? Maybe there can be. This is not the be all and end all, but this is simply the next step, I guess, in where we are going in the direction of excellence.
MR. BAGDY: This is our first step. This is what we'd like to learn from our demonstration program. And if, indeed, it's successful, what we learn and what we apply, we may be moving in that direction.
MR. CLOUTIER: I think there is some prerequisites, prequalifiers right now. Folks that qualify for the Business Roundtable Annual Awards, went through the meat grinder to get there. And those folks ought to move right up the list if they qualify for and got the presentation at the Business Roundtable. It's unheard of to get that award, it's a tough award to get.
If they've met the Business Roundtable standards, they should certainly meet the Department of Labor's standards. So that could be somewhat of a clearinghouse or a benchmark for you to initiate some of the players that are out there that have outstanding programs.
And I also think that the Department should look at partnering on some of the major projects that are upcoming. And you guys should be aggressive to say, "We want to partner with you, we want to be part of the team." I suggested it a number of years when the Denver International Airport was coming and that was under construction.
Before you know it, Bart Jabok (ph.) had an office out there. And I don't think we've maximized what we really wanted to do. We had the Olympics come to Atlanta and never got that off the ground. We all knew it was coming. And it's come and gone and it's history now. You've got the Big Dig in Massachusetts, and there is other projects all around the United States, these Intels, and IBMs are out there, because they are long term fast track projects. And when we hit the road running on these major projects, it's seven days a week, almost 24 hours a day. And everybody has got to toe up to meet the standard. And I encourage you to continue to look at subcontractor participation. But you know in this business nothing beats a low bid.
MR. NICHOLS: Let me also add at this point, this is one of the issues that one of the work groups will be working on. So this committee, or others have input into that process, we need to get them to the co-chairs of the work group.
MR. CLOUTIER: Are you all going to be able to come back to this group in 90 days and say that such and such a contractor is up and running and approved and you've got a demonstration site ongoing?
MS. OLIVER: We certainly can come back and tell you about any company that has qualified, where we are in the program.
MR. CLOUTIER: Because I think this group would love to hear the successfuls. Maybe we need to have a meeting at that site or near that site so that we can go and look at successful programs that all of us can benefit from, the outstanding work that that company and their employees and all their subcontractors do.
MR. JEFFRESS: Good.
MR. NICHOLS: Felipe?
MR. DEVORA: First of all I want to compliment the Agency on taking that view towards a short job site like that. That's always been a question, how shorter term projects could be identified for the VPP program.
I would also want to echo what Steve said here, as far as the backbone of most construction in our neck of the woods anyway, and I'm sure most of the country, are the short term six month to nine month jobs. A year and a half job is probably a long job. These things are dynamic and they are moving quickly.
And I think one of the steps that we could also look at would be this prequalification on the company part. I mean, I think if we identify the safe players out there, they shouldn't be penalized for only having a job site that's less than a year. So I think that process should continue to identify the contractors, the short term contractors, the six to nine month to one year jobs, and let's not lose them in the shuffle and penalize them with that.
So I think the first part of that, the application for these companies, is very important to identify the good players. And then, until we work out a mechanism for site-specific, for short term projects, less than a year, I think that is an important step that should go forward as far as identifying the companies with the application part of your program.
MR. NICHOLS: Robert?
MR. MASTERSON: Okay. I think the program is a great program but you have successfully eliminated all residential builders in the country. It's very, very rare that you'll ever see a residential site last a year. And depending on how you define "site," if you are looking at an individual house, you are talking 90 to 120 days.
Now that's an awful lot of construction that goes on every year in this country. And some of those players are really really conscientious and do a good job on safety and deserve some form of recognition as well.
MR. JEFFRESS: Let me just say that I don't think we've eliminated folks, I'd say we haven't gotten to them yet, okay? It's whether the glass is half full or half empty, I understand. I mean it's not like we've made a decision to eliminate folks.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other questions or comments?
MR. BUCHET: I find the two step application process interesting, and I'd like to see how it works out. I have a question. Do you envision any sort of award or recognition for having passed the first part of the application? Or do they have to go through both of these before anything is done about the company? Is, one, the company is site specific so, theoretically, if the company applied for act one and had 10 sites at stage two, do we give them anything --
MS. OLIVER: No. The company comes in and gets accepted and qualified for the program. And after that, then we just approve site applications from that company.
MR. NICHOLS: Larry?
MR. EDGINGTON: Let preface my remarks by saying that certainly this is a concept that my organization can afford. However, I think it's important that we keep our eye on the prize which really is how we protect and promote the safety and health of working people.
You know, I sometimes think we get so caught up in terms of giving recognition to employers. What we are really talking about is giving recognition to employers that do the right things to improve worker safety and health. And I say to you that my own organization's experience in general industry with VPP is not everything we would like it to be, in the following sense.
One, that there are some who believe that perhaps the VPP Association is getting more control over the VPP process than OSHA itself. And whether or not that's true I think is something that you need to be sensitive to as we work with employers in terms of how we do build programs of excellence.
And two, in a more practical sense, I can tell you that my organization has had a great deal of frustration with OSHA in dealing with VPP employers that have killed and injured my members. We truly have a sense that sometimes there is a tendency on the part of the Agency to want to give what I would call "kid glove" treatment to employers who have Star status, for example. That's not what these programs are about.
If you are killing and injuring my workers, we have to get to the bottom of that. And I think as we talk about how we do this in construction, which is inherently dangerous, we cannot lose sight of that. Again, this is something we want to work with you on. But I can tell you that my own organization's experience, in general industry, is not everything that we would like it to be.
MS. OLIVER: I'd just like to say that in terms of the VPP, if there is a fatality, or an injury, or an accident at a work site, the enforcement arm of the Agency goes into motion. And the VPP aspect drops out so that there is always a full enforcement investigation. It's done according to the firm guidelines. And if you can be specific on some of the places, then later on maybe we --
MR. EDGINGTON: All I can say is that you can tell me that for today, tomorrow, next year, however long, but I can tell you in my own experience in working in the field with OSHA staff, whenever we deal with a VPP employer, ultimately, that always comes up as a part of the discussion, that this is an employer that enjoys VPP status.
And, look, I recognize that that's an achievement, and that's an important, and that's an indication that that employer does attempt to do everything they should be doing. However, when I have OSHA say to me, "Look, this is an employer that is intent upon keeping their VPP status and they are going to do everything they can do to keep that," that's not what we are talking about here.
What we're talking about is getting to the bottom of why people are injured or killed, and not whether or not an employer is eligible for VPP status. And that's simply my point.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other questions or comments? Marie.
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: I have just one more comment about the short term projects. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 80 percent of all construction firms have less than 10 employees. And it seems to me that if you recognize, like Steve was saying, only the big players who have extremely good safety records, you will be saying to the rest of the industry, "You really don't count."
It would be really important to find some smaller contractors who have extremely good records and hold them up to their credit and hold them up as examples and say, "Yeah, you have a small business. You may not have the resources of the big company, but you have been able to protect your workers, prevent fatalities, reduce your injuries."
MR. NICHOLS: Steve.
MR. CLOUTIER: I think that opens up a window of opportunity that you could use your major players that qualify for the program, and then maybe they could qualify or help some subcontractor some smaller contractors raise their benchmark, and everybody wins. Because I think everybody that works on a major player site has really had to keep their nose to the grindstone and do a better job, plan their work, set the example, investigate accidents, and train for excellence, and all of those things.
MS. OLIVER: We've had some experience with that with the traditional VPP because the sites that have qualified for the VPP, some of the subs at the site have come forward and asked to be recognized for their excellence. And so we opened up what was called the "Resident Contractor Program," which Zoltan talked about earlier. And we actually allow subcontractors at VPP sites to get VPP status.
And that program has been so successful that when we come out with our new Star VPP requirements we're going to incorporate that as a regular program element. So you are absolutely on target.
MR. BAGDY: Could we ask that the subgroup that is going to address this issue, that you give us a little bit information on this or frame it somehow so we can look at it?
MR. NICHOLS: You can ask it and I'm sure they'll be delighted to. Any other comments? If not, we appreciate, Cathy and Zoltan, your participation this morning. Even though the Assistant Secretary had to leave for another meeting, we appreciate his attendance again this morning to be with us to show his concern about the action that this committee takes. Bruce?
Directorate Of Construction - Report
MR. SWANSON: Thank you. Before I get to my comments, if I can just comment on what Larry said. I think it's totally valid. I think we have a breakdown sometimes between what OSHA has as policy and would like to see happen, like the folks described to you, when you move downstream and get to where we really are investigating a problem.
Sometimes the policy that folks should be treated the same as everyone else out there just doesn't reach all the way down. And it's something that we in management, and I see that OTI is in the room, and fortunately they can make some amendments to their training programs, it's an attitude that we have to make sure that compliance officers do not exhibit exactly what you are talking about, because that is not OSHA policy.
A couple of things I'd like to share with you this morning. On the agenda it says I'm going to get into statistics, and only lightly so. This is a group that is about 50 percent new to the Advisory Committee. I'd like to share with you at least my concept of what it is we are looking at as a problem out there and some good news and some bad news in the construction industry.
We in OSHA in FY '96 had only made 11,500 construction inspections, as we were rolling out new offices and reinventing ourselves. And that 11,500 figure was a low point for us. And senior management here in Washington said "That's not what we want to see happen in the construction industry. We have to make our presence felt on a broader basis out there."
And the response to that, the Assistant Secretaries have a way of getting what they ask for, the response to that was the OSHA field force made over 18, 150 inspections in FY' 97 in our construction industry. That's a 57 percent increase, if you are keeping count on this. On focused inspections, which the Assistant Secretary touched on lightly here awhile back, there was also an increase from 1,785 to 1,900 focused inspections, an approximately 10 percent increase.
For those 18,000 inspections, we had an increase in total violations of 68 percent, and an 83 percent increase in serious violations. You can argue that that's either good or not good. And if you are one of those contractors that received a serious violation, it maybe doesn't look good that that serious number is increasing. From my viewpoint, it indicates that OSHA is applying its resources not only on an increasing scale but, hopefully, that indicates that we are sending those inspector resources to those sites more in need of it. At least, I would hope, that's a correct interpretation of an 83 percent increase in serious violations.
Other general figures, from 1992 to 1996. Construction fatalities actually went up from 903 fatalities, as BLS counts them for us, to 1,039. The construction employment industry, however, grew from 6.5 million to 7.5 million, so our fatalities per 100,000 workers remained at exactly the same rate, at a 13.9 rate over that four year period for which we have the figures. That indicates to me, anyhow, that something more has to be done.
A sub figure to that, if I can add it to this discussion, is for that same time period, 1992 to 1996. Falls in the construction industry, 267 fatalities for the early year, 337 fatalities for the latter year. Fatalities per 100,000 workers employed went from 4.1 to 4.5, the wrong direction for those years.
We have been at this task for over a quarter of a century and we are still producing numbers that indicate the trends are not strongly in the right direction. This Assistant Secretary has filled his requirements under the GPRA Act. And you heard him yesterday mention a strategic plan that OSHA has written and promulgated, and has promised the United States Congress that it will live up to.
He is talking about a 20 percent reduction in 100,000 workplaces that are the most serious hazards in this country. And in the construction industry specifically, he is talking about a 15 reduction in fatalities, and a 15 percent reduction in the rate of injuries and illnesses. And these figures for our recent history indicate that we're not likely to get a 15 percent reduction in fatalities unless we, OSHA, find another way of doing things. We have a brand new ACCSH, and we are going to look to you for some guidance on your ideas as to how we can change our past practices, improve our past practices, change our targeting system, perhaps more inspection resources, and other resources that we utilize.
We talked about a reward system for excellence to inspire various elements of the construction industry to do better, to maybe create mentoring concepts out there. This has been mentioned here this morning. But the base that I am trying to lay here is that at least those of us like myself, that have signed onto the Assistant Secretary's Strategic Plan and what we are going to accomplish in the next five years, we've got a big job ahead of us.
And for those of you who have volunteered and signed on, either a one year, or two year term, or intend to reup and make it a four year term, you're in this with us, I guess, for the ride. And I welcome you on board, and I hope we can get somewhere.
The agenda also says that I'm going to, and I always follow my assignments here, says I'm going to talk about Special Emphasis Programs.
Special Emphasis Programs
MR. SWANSON: Let me just touch on a number of things that OSHA does in the area of emphasis. An emphasis program to us is a targeting mechanism. When we use the term "special emphasis program," it means a broad based national program that we as OSHA are following everywhere. A local emphasis program is obvious.
We also have recently reinvented problem solving initiatives. That's something that goes all the way down to the area office where a rolled out, quote, "reinvented" OSHA office looks at its own unique problems in that geographic area and comes up with a unique solution for what it perceives that problem to be, or has analyzed the result that that is the problem.
And in the construction area and we have a good geographic spread here on this committee. Around the country, in some format, you will find from your area offices or regional office that you have an emphasis program of one of the three types I've mentioned. You might find falls, scaffolds, trenching, tunneling, lead in construction, silica in construction, roofing emphasis program, residential construction. And I was told this morning we even have an emphasis program on noise for highway work out of one of our area offices in Arkansas.
It's an attempt by OSHA, and I welcome comment from these work groups in the future, to better target those resources so we can get into those areas where our data indicates we have unique problems that are causing the fatalities that are causing the injuries and illnesses. It is not new, it is a concept that OSHA has been involved in for many years. So, A, it has been successful in the past. But, B, as you heard from those early statistics, not sufficiently successful. We have to either build upon this, or if our friends and advisors can tell us what we ought to be doing instead, we can look at that.
MR. SWANSON: Another area that we have increased our efforts in is outreach and partnership, started under Joe Dear with the reinvention of Government the reinvention of OSHA, and a push to reinvent ourselves in our relationship with the construction community.
And those of you who have either been on this committee before, or who have heard me at a meeting before, which I think probably is the whole committee, you already know those things that we are doing and have been doing for several years. For example, the roofing pilot in Chicago, the scaffold training, the outreach, where we are working with our colleagues in organized labor, the carpenters, the painters and the laborers, and our OPI friends to put together training courses to better reach their membership. The carpenters, I'm told, alone they have done some 9,000 employees have been trained on the new scaffold standard. With the AJC, the Assistant Secretary recently signed a partnership agreement with them that he intended to set a tone for future work between us and that organization. A year or year and a half ago, we worked with NIOSH on an agreement to find another way of alleviating hazards for those that work on asphalt paving.
Operating engineers and laborers signed on, as well as the industry side of that table, and the seven manufacturers who produce 95 percent of the asphalt laying equipment in this country. And we're working on a couple of other partnership agreements, one with a labor contractor organization down in the St. Louis area.
And we're saying that if we can't work with outside organizations to do something about certification of training for crane operators, which I would hope comes to fruition in the months ahead, this is a sample of the type of program that we would also like advice, guidance, and encouragement or discouragement on, whichever is appropriate for the subject matter.
If some of these, you think we're off in the wrong direction, please tell us. If you have some thoughts as to how we can amplify what has already been done, and that's really where I hope you come down, we look forward to the work product from your subcommittees.
Residential Construction Grants
MR. SWANSON: Residential construction grants, I was asked to comment on. Most of you I think are familiar with the fact that the United States Congress gave us some $2 million a couple of years ago to do something with in the order of a vertical standard for residential homebuilding. That was done. A book was completed and put out in print. It was done in conjunction with National Association of Home Builders and the Building Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.
And that was rather an easy task. It didn't seem so at the time, but it was with hindsight, a relatively easy task. We did not spend the $2 million that Congress had been kind enough to give us and order us to produce a book with. We used the $2 million for the training grants.
We went out with an RFP and asked for training grants to train contractors supervisors, foremen, most importantly employees organized or unorganized, and OSHA compliance officers, be they state or Federal, on give us your grant ideas. Three grants were awarded. One to the NAHB, one to the Building Trades Department, and one to a consortium of the National Safety Council and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to train compliance officers.
Progress to date on those three grants. One of them has actually begun training and I understand four sessions have been given by the National Association of Home Builders around the country. The training for compliance officers is anticipated to start probably in June, several months down the road. And the kick-off date for the first training session for the building trades has not yet been established but, hopefully, is in the same time frame.
I would like to ask the committee, and I think I'm in part being redundant and echoing my boss here, which is never a bad idea, three of the groups that were set up yesterday, I'd like to give special emphasis to. Because I, as the head of the Directorate of Construction, feel like we have problems that we can use whatever help you can give us. And one is in data development. I feel that as we look at this teaching plan and what OSHA hopes to accomplish in the next five years, we're not going to get there or even very far down that road until we better describe the road for ourselves. And that road has to be described with data, data driven. BLS produces data and we have an information management system in-house, inside OSHA, both of which were developed with other goals in mind. BLS has been collecting information for years, the construction industry included, and they did not give a whole lot of thought 10 years ago as to what OSHA problems were going to be in 1998 for data sources. There is data not only from BLS, there is data from other institutions that gather information on the construction industry. You folks know where it is you folks know how to get it better than we do. We have a couple of organizations sitting at the table that have information and know how to get it, and if you can share that with us or share that with your own subcommittee, I beseech you to do so. Targeting, which is a derivative of that, OSHA has used the Dodge Report System for its program targeting. And then it uses self referrals, complaints, fatalities, catastrophes for scheduling its enforcement activities. It seems to many of us and it has for years, that this is not the most efficacious or efficient way for us to use our resources. But once arriving at that insight how to proceed beyond that has not been readily apparent to any of us. Any help you can give us again talking about how to better use our data for targeting. And targeting, I mean mostly inspection targeting because if we are using our inspection resources in the wrong places and sending enforcement compliance officers to those construction sites that don't need our benevolent attention on any day in question, that's a misuse of our resources. There are contractors out there that could better use that kind attention from our compliance officers on certain dates. But I'm talking about more than that. I'm talking about how to target our other resources as well. How can we better use our compliance assistance, our consultation, our education and training tools that we have available to us. Are there elements of the community where we have not been in the last 25 years. and what I mean by that is as you well know, Mr. Masterson, we have not done in the last 25 years residential home building inspections at the same rate as we have done inspections in other areas of the community. And the reason for that is the targeting system doesn't lead us to do that. There has been an improvement, my term, an improvement in the past year with some 1300 residential construction inspections in FY '97 which I don't have a base to compare that as we didn't capture it that way earlier. but at 1300 residential inspections in FY '97 has, by everyone's opinion, been a significant increase in that area. It's an area where we haven't been before. There are probably other sub areas of the construction industry that we could better use our resources in. And the third area I've already lapped into, and that is not only inspection resources but outreach tools. What other outreach tools should we could we develop and utilize to improve safety and health on construction sites? Or how can we better target those tools that you already have, the traditional tools? And that's all I have, Mr. Chairman. Any questions or comments?
MR. NICHOLS: Before I take any questions or comments, it was brought up yesterday that it's a great idea that for future meetings we'll have a chartboard that'll be put up here to list the work groups, who the chairs are and the topics that they are addressing, and some type of timeline on there of what they hope to achieve. So it'll be set up here, or wherever we have our meetings in the future, and it will address some of the key issues that the work groups are working on. So in the other comment, from sitting through yesterday and today, it appears that we have very few people that are bashful on here. So if they have ideas, I'm pretty certain that they are going to share them. Questions or comments? Jane.
MS. WILLIAMS: First, on the 85 percent increase of serious citations, has there been any recognition as to how many of those might have been brought by an employer to a controlling authority where the actual cause was by the subcontractor possibly?
MR. SWANSON: I don't have that figure, Jane. And I'm not sure that we can capture that without going through and doing a file by file count. I don't know.
MS. WILLIAMS: Have you seen that increase over the last year or two where the multi-employer policy truly is --
MR. SWANSON: I have seen new data. But I haven't, in all honesty, asked anyone to try and generate a program that would produce that data. I have heard from various elements of the construction community that there is a perception out there that general contractors are being cited under the multi-employer policy more vigorously in the recent months or in the last fiscal year than three, four, or five years ago.
I can neither deny or affirm that. But I have heard it from others on the contractor side of the aisle. In fact, in some states, like Mr. Devora's, it's dangerous for me to go into because they mention that rather vigorously. I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that.
MS. WILLIAMS: That's fine, thank you.
MR. NICHOLS: Marie?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: I'm sorry to put you on the spot again but one these three cooperative agreements or training grants, do you have an evaluation component that will evaluate the effectiveness of each of these programs? I've not seeing the details of it but it would be interesting how they target and what the components of their training programs are and whether or not they think it's effective in terms of reaching the goals of the training.
MR. SWANSON: There is an evaluation component in each of the grants. And again, I'm not prepared to go into that in any depth this morning, but I'd be happy to either between meetings or with a sub group or at the next meeting, whenever the committee wishes.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other questions or comments?
MR. NICHOLS: Seeing none or hearing none, why don't we take a short break and come back to finish our agenda. We'll have everybody back at 10:20 please.
(Off the record for a brief break.)
MR. NICHOLS: As we reconvene, some of the public had asked, "Is there going to be time for comments before we adjourn today?" Yes, there will. Before we move for adjournment, we will take public comments. So those of you that wish to come up and make some comments to the committee, you will have an opportunity to do so. At this time we will move to the report by Marie on NIOSH and the construction programs. Marie.
National Institute For Occupation Safety And Health - Construction Programs
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning. My first few remarks I'm going to actually I would like to preface my report and talk to our committee members who are new to ACCSH. What I'd like to do is give you a little description of what NIOSH is because even though when I talk to individuals and I say I work for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and health they always say, "Oh, OSHA." And that's not an insult it's just a misstatement of fact. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was formed, like OSHA, with the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970. And we unlike OSHA, which was placed in the department of Labor, we were placed in the Department of Health and Human Services. We are also one of the centers for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Our headquarters, unlike the CDC which is in Atlanta, our headquarters are here in Washington. Our institute Director is Dr. Linda Rosenstock. And she has an open door policy. If you are interested in discussing an issue with her, do not hesitate to call her or me, for that matter.
NIOSH has four main priorities and these were framed in the Occupational Safety and Health Act. We conduct research related to occupational safety and health. We make recommendations to OSHA on development of standards, they are science-based recommendations. We train occupational safety and health professionals and lately we have been developing programs for workers, supervisors, and foremen. And, finally, we conduct what we call health hazard evaluations. Health hazard evaluations are requests to NIOSH from employers, employees, and labor representatives to come an investigate what we hope is a one time problem, not a chronic problem but an emergency problem.
NIOSH has in the order of about 1100 employees. We are spread all over the country in Morgantown, Pittsburgh, Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Spokane, Washington. We have about $180 million budget of which $11 million plus or minus change, is dedicated to construction. Two thirds of those dollars go out the door for extramural projects. And I'll be talking both about our intramural and our extramural programs.
We have a Construction Steering Committee, which is made up of representatives from all over NIOSH. I sit as the Chair of that committee. We were put in place about two years ago to manage our construction research program and to put a focus to it. Ad we'll be talking about that focus in a few minutes.
(Beginning overhead presentation.)
In your packet is a document that we produced last year which contains all of the construction research and other types of activities that NIOSH had planned for FY '97. Now you say, "Well, this is FY '98," but if you consider that many research projects have a two to five year life cycle, we haven't had many that have ended and many are still continuing, so this is fairly current. For those of you who do not have a copy of this, I only brought enough for right Committee, you can dial 1-800-35NIOSH. That's our 800 number, and you can ask for the publications office. And this publication is Number 97-152.
Our research and development activities can be fit, not easily, but into five categories. And that's surveillance of health effects and hazards. That is we identify hazards or toxins that might be potentially hazardous to workers exposed, and find out whether or not they in fact are a problem.
We do etiologic research which suggests the hypotheses that have been developed through the surveillance mechanisms. We develop research methods, as well as other kinds of programs. We do interventions, and we also have a large communication program.
What I'd like to do is talk to you about a few of the projects that we have going on at NIOSH both intramurally and extramurally. Currently, we have somewhere between 65 and 70 projects internally and somewhere on the level of 30 extramurally. So we get a lot of research out of our $11 million.
Our construction program started in 1990 when Congress first initiated, they gave us seed money of about $800,000. And during that time we've been able to develop an infrastructure, internally and extramurally, of researchers that are able and have developed methods to look at construction, which you all know is unique. Much of the research that had been done in the first 20 years at NIOSH was solely based on manufacturing. We did not do much in construction.
So over those eight years we've been able to develop more than 70 to 100 projects, and hopefully we'll be able to apply that to the construction scenario, reduce worker injuries and fatalities.
One of our primary goals was to evaluate the mortality experience of construction trades so that we can target potential problems within each of those trades. We've done nine of them and we have three more in the pot. I think we had one individual, Cindy Robinson came about a year and a half ago and talked about some of the results of the PMR studies. And I'll be happy to share that with you, send you the papers, if you are interested.
We are currently working with Duke University to analyze medical claims data in the State of North Carolina with the Home Builders' Association. This is first study of its kind to look at the injuries and illnesses among residential construction.
We have two studies that are looking at emergency room surveillance, one of which is based here in Washington D.C., being conducted by George Washington University. In the past five years they have had more than 3,000 emergency room visits by construction workers. They had the contract for taking care of the construction workers at the Federal Triangle project, which you all know was a multi-year project. About 10,000 employees came in off of that site over the period of that construction. More data is coming out. They are analyzing that data. One of the interesting parts that we found that there is an increase in eye injuries among plumbers. They found that 5 percent of all the emergency room admissions were plumbers. 19 percent of their admissions were due to severe eye injuries. So we're using these data for is targeting different trades, in terms of developing prevention activities. We have a number of projects that are -- sorry, Sue isn't here -- that have done surveys for the different trades on musculoskeletal disorders. And we will be using this information for our musculoskeletal subcommittee. We also have a large project that we deal with 34 states, called the Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology Surveillance Program. It's ABLES. In these 34 states they report all blood leads that are over 20 micrograms per deciliter. And please correct me if I'm wrong, the OSHA for medical removal I think is 40. So the mast majority of workers that come into this program or are reported in this program are construction workers.
In our etiologic research, again, we are testing hypotheses that have been generated either through the surveillance mechanisms or through other gaps in the data. We're doing pulmonary functions tests on operating engineers and laborers. This is being done by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. We have another study where we're evaluating what are the long term effects of traumatic injuries. Many people say, Okay, you get hurt, you break your leg, and when you get well, you are well. But what we would like to look at is what are the long term health effects of that traumatic injury. And for some people that may in fact mean the long term effect relative to their employment possibilities.
We're looking at biomechanical evaluation of dry wall installation. As many of you know, drywall sheets range anywhere from 50 120 pounds. We have a high rate of back injuries among drywall installers, and it's also part of the legacy of the drywall installer is that you don't do it after you are age 30. So what we're trying to do is begin to intervene to see what we can do about lengthening the employment opportunities for these individuals.
We also do a number of laboratory studies. Just to talk about two of them. We have, as OSHA, a special emphasis program in silica. One of our activities is to look at the different types of silica that are out there, and how it reacts in the lung of individuals. There is not just one type of silica. We also have a few studies that are looking at the different types of isocyanates and how they instill or cause allergic reactions among individuals. One of the big problems with isocyanates is that they cause asthmatic reactions and allergic reactions among people. These reactions are permanent, they last through the lifetime of the individual once they begin to occur.
As I said, we do a fair number of methods development research. Right now we're looking at how we quantify the risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers. As it was stated yesterday, unlike manufacturing we don't have jobs that are continuously repetitive.
Construction workers, their tasks tend to have long cycle times and require a different method for evaluating and quantifying those risk factors. And we're talking about repetition, awkward postures, et cetera, et cetera.
Some of our chemists are in the field right now are validating a spot test for lead and lead based paint. We're also doing a spot test for chromium in paint. This is long in coming and also very much needed for constructions to say for one for their bids as well as identifying the types of personal protection that needs to be for the various workers.
We're also looking at robotic paint removal systems, specifically for ships, to reduce the lead exposure among painters as well as the exposure to abrasive blasting. We have another project in evaluating substitutes for silica sand. One is to look at their effectiveness in removing paint, but also looking at if in fact they cause lung damage to workers. And actually they are doing it in rats, not in people.
And then finally one of our real high tech things is to validate virtually virtual reality simulation program in our fall prevention program. Here they harness people up in fall protection. They put a head gear on them and simulate fall scenarios to see what the reaction of the individual is, and how we can help prevent falls. These are just a few of the things that we're doing onsite, at NIOSH, as well as extramurally.
What our intervention programs are is we take the methods that we've developed in the methods development research and apply theme to the field. One of the things that we haven't talked about in this committee is I know over the past two years is that fact that construction workers tend to have a high rate of hearing loss.
And if you look at the data, even young workers who have been in the industry for only five years have significant hearing deficits compared to others in their same cohort who don't work in the industry. So we are working with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters to develop a training program for apprentices in making them aware of what kind of hearing protection is out there, and what it can afford them as they age in the industry.
We are looking at tool designs for a reduction in musculoskeletal disorders. And right now we're also dealing with the issue of prevention of eye injuries. If you look at the data, the Workers' Compensation data that came out of the carpenters' Health and Welfare Fund.
Eye injuries are one of the top five compensable injuries among these workers. And if you talk to me, I think most if not all eye injuries are preventable. So we have three projects that are going on right now. Hopefully we can instill a passion for people to keep their eye protection on.
Finally, over the past five years, under the direction of Dr. Linda Rosenstock, we have enhanced our communication and information dissemination and transfer efforts. We have the Office of Health Communication which was established in our Washington office. We have a Health Communications Research Branch that was developed with the installation of our new Health Effects Laboratory Division in Morgantown.
And we have our Education and Information Division, of which I am a part. These three organizations are moving rapidly to begin to develop communication efforts to penetrate all levels of the construction industry in terms of health and safety information.
We are not only developing communication methods but also training materials. One of our programs, as we had talked about yesterday, is to develop a Respiratory Protection Program Manual for small businesses. This will take their Respiratory Protection Standard that came out in January and put it into lay language and give them a step by step procedure for developing and maintaining a respiratory protection program.
We have a program which is called our Young Workers Program, but what it really is it establishes developing modules to go into secondary and post-secondary programs for training students that are coming into the construction industry about safety and health. And these are specific modules.
Right now we're just finishing the first module on electrical and there will be seven more coming down the pike. Hopefully, they will be out in April and I can share that with this group.
As I said, we make recommendations to OSHA for standards. Sometimes we also develop technical documents which look at the state of the art and the science.
Currently we're in the process of writing documents on lead, silica, asphalt, and ceramic refractory fibers. There are more coming down the pike now. We have a criteria document that's on its way that will recommend to OSHA on the noise standard, and hopefully that will be out shortly.
We are in the process of developing a construction resource center in our libraries, such that we have library of video tapes, CDs, training programs, scientific literature related to construction. We also are putting this stuff on our web site, and if you go to NIOSH's home page, there is a construction pick. Actually, I have to get in there and clean it up a little bit. They've been putting stuff on willy nilly and I think we need to look at it a little bit more.
As I said, we also have an 800 number, and we also have free publications. And you can call our 800 number or you can get our publications through our Internet site and just order them there, they are all free. When they are out of print, then they go to the National Technical Information Survey and you have to pay for them. Currently, our pocket guide came out in February. We've already distributed 40,000 copies of that pocket guide.
I just want to spend a few more minutes in talking about where our Construction Steering Committee is moving NIOSH in terms of our future research. When one does a study, when one gets into a new field of endeavor, you want to pick the low hanging fruit. And when I first started in 1990 to try to put our construction research program together, there was very little basis for our research. I felt like it was a charging elephant, it was going in all kinds of directions. But what we found is that we take one piece at a time, and focus on a couple of areas.
Over the last seven years we've spent most of our time looking at big sites, big contractors, the large international unions. Now it's time to move in another direction to look at those areas where there is great gaps in the information. Our areas of emphasis are information and technology transfer.
Although we have a large communications group, they are all getting started, and we feel that it's incumbent upon the Construction Steering Committee at NIOSH to move them in a direction where it is most useful for the industry.
We also feel that the data for small businesses, non-union construction workers, and residential construction is really poor, we need more information in order to help us target and prevent fatalities as well as injuries and illnesses for which we have, in my opinion, pretty poor data.
In convincing both our director, as well as the rest of the researchers in the country, and NIOSH, we said, "Lookit, all of these areas are interconnected. You do work in one of them and you'll be able to enhance the issues for all of these sectors." That's all I have right now.
So we're going for four priority areas. They include information and technology transfer, small businesses, non-union construction workers, and residential construction. And that doesn't mean we're going to stop all the research that we're doing now or any of the other things.
Even though this committee is a standing advisory committee to OSHA, be aware that I am listening to you as well and that I can take information back to NIOSH and have some impact on our research agenda. And any advice and assistance that you can give NIOSH, we'd be happy to have.
MR. NICHOLS: Thank you, Marie. Is there any questions?
MR. SMITH: I have one. Marie, you said you have modules. Are those pamphlets or do you have a video or what?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: Oh, for the vocational technical programs?
MR. SMITH: Yes.
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: They actually have a number. From what I've seen they have an instructor's guide, they have a student's handout, and whether or not they are going to do videos, I don't know. But this group is entirely capable of doing just about anything to make sure that the message gets across. If you think that would be helpful, we certainly --
MR. SMITH: I'm Chairman of our Training Trust for Southern California. You know, we have an area from Nevada to Mexico, from Arizona to the Ocean. There is roughly 15,000 people there. I'd be very much interested.
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: Great.
MR. NICHOLS: Other questions?
MR. EDGINGTON: Marie, let me first say, how appreciative my own organization is for the opportunity we've had to work with NIOSH over the past 30 years. Good things have happened. But in the process of doing that, we've noticed a couple of things about your organization that we thought could be improved.
One is the level of, shall we say, communication between the various NIOSH entities. For example, on the issue of asphalt fumes and research that was being done there. I think some of us involved with that had a sense, at least for awhile, that the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing. I think things have improved there, and certainly thank you for that.
But one of the things that has struck us is that often times the work of NIOSH as a whole, and construction in particular, you could get more bang for the buck in terms of leverage and resources when working with other Federal agencies, for example, OSHA, on issues. And I'm wondering what, if anything, is being done in that regard in terms of just looking at how you leverage your skill and ability with CDC, or others that can help?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: We have a number of activities that are going on right now. One, is we're working with OSHA to do some evaluation of residential construction life cycle in terms of their hazards. We've gone hand in hand with them in their Denver operation. We've actually worked with some of the folks from Bob Masterson's group, as well as AGC and ABC, to expand our knowledge about residential construction.
We are always looking for partners. Again, we've been expanding that. And as a person who has been intimately involved with the asphalt document, that partnership I think worked very well in the last year or year and a half.
We are working with OSHA in their establishment of guidelines for the communication tower erection. We are developing an alert for that, but we felt that in order for us to effectively develop that alert, we had to work with OSHA. We have two people, one from Morgantown and one from my shop, that are actually sitting on their committee and assisting in that guidance. So those are at least two examples.
CDC hasn't done much in terms of building or construction. We do also sit on what is called the C and B Subcommittee of the White House Committee, the OSTP Committee. And we've been working with them in their PATH initiative, which is called Partnerships Advancing Technologies in Housing, and developing an initiative for residential construction.
And we also sent some individuals to what is called the PARITY, which is the new Federal initiative for highway construction. I didn't go to that meeting. So we are actually moving in a variety of directions in partnering.
And, hopefully, through our Internet site, or our 800 number, through development of new kinds of documents, new kinds of materials, that we will in fact be improving our communications in addition to our new partnerships.
MR. EDGINGTON: Thank you.
MR. NICHOLS: Any questions? Owen.
MR. SMITH: Yes, I have one more. You had mentioned that by age 30 the drywall hangers, I assume you are talking about, seemed to have pretty much dropped out of the industry. Do you know why, or is there something that indicates why they may drop out?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: Well, it's more anecdotal that they drop out. Part of the problem is installing drywall is an extremely physical operation. If you've seen the operation, if you've seen how some of them work, there is a lot of physical exertion that has to be done. So you have to lift the drywall. Plus, drywall is heavy, just in general. So in the biomechanical analysis, we are finding that there is a fair amount of physical force that has to go on in terms of muscular activity. Things wear out.
MR. BUCHET: I think anecdotally that if you can't keep up the pace, you don't get paid that well.
MR. SMITH: It's nice to be in the drywall business. And my ceiling crews, when the rates were $5.25 an hour, they only worked three days because they had made $910 by Wednesday, and they wouldn't work Thursday and Friday because we wouldn't pay under the table. I don't know what they are doing now, I got out of the business. But it's true that those guys make a lot of bucks.
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: For a while.
MR. SMITH: Yeah, for a while.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other comments or questions?
MR. NICHOLS: Thank you, Marie. At this time I'm going to pass out what I went over yesterday and didn't have copies, so we made these. And the chairs can see what it is that you agreed to do.
(Pausing to hand out "ACCSH Work Group Assignments.")
MR. NICHOLS: One is the standing committees, one is the work groups.
MR. SWANSON: Mr. Chairman?
MR. NICHOLS: Yes, sir.
MR. SWANSON: Could I ask you to encourage the membership on your committee to look at some of these again and see if they wouldn't be interested in developing a little more balance on a couple of these?
MR. NICHOLS: Are you talking about the work groups?
MR. SWANSON: Yes. On the work groups I noticed, for example, on fall protection we have Mr. Masterson and Mr. Devora, who are very competent and adequate to handle this, but it seems like somebody from the labor side might be interested in joining that group.
(All pause to review handouts.)
MR. NICHOLS: Hearing no one jump right out here and want to change, without objection, we'll approve these as they stand. Thank you.
At this time I'd like to make one announcement. Upon adjournment, if the committee would stay in place for a few minutes, we have some discussion about your travel that you may want to know about before you head out.
Secondly, at this time I will call on public comment. So those of you that wish to comment, please come up here to the table. And when you comment, if you'd give us your name and where you are from, we'd appreciate it. Thank you.
(Pause while attendees are seated.)
MR. PFAU: Mr. Chairman, my name is Richard Pfau -- P-f-a-u. I am the Safety Director for the Donohoe Companies, which is a local construction firm, hospitality firm. And I also serve as the vice chairman of the local ABC Chapter of Metropolitan Washington.
I noticed this morning from both Ms. Williams comments and Mr. Cloutier's, that a few topics that I wanted to bring to the attention -- not necessarily bring to your attention because obviously you are looking at it -- but ask you strongly that this committee look more deeply into two issues. One is multi-employer work sites.
I think we have a real problem there. I'm sitting here as a contractor who in the last seven years has had the firm visited about 26 times. And of those times, none of them were directly attributable to anything that our employees did. They were all as related to the subs.
And in the recent year there is almost an, and this is on the part of the compliance agencies, if we get a sub then we must certainly pass this on to the general contractor, even though he may have an excellence program, strongly and vigorously prosecutes its program internally, probably much more strongly than the agency would, up to and including the removing of offending contractors.
This dovetails with the actual monetary problems that we are starting to experience. And here they are and they are probably not in an area that you may have considered. Locally, here in the Washington Metropolitan area, there is an agency known as the Fairfax County Organization, in Fairfax County. It's a county organization that it will preclude us, if we as a general contractor in the previous few years, have had one serious violation.
Now in our particular case, we happen to be very good in a niche market of schools. There are probably nine schools to be built in the next five years in the Fairfax County system, and that probably will deny us the ability to compete. And, basically, on something that is really not as a result of anything that we failed to do on the job site.
I honestly urge and strongly urge that this committee look at this. I don't necessarily think that there needs to be rulemaking. I think this is all an internal matter that the Agency could very easily provide some direction on, ask those of us in the community to come in and chat. That's a very simple thing.
And I think we're all frustrated in the fact that the Agency can't just go out and say, "Rich Pfau, I'd like you to come in," and so forth, because that then becomes a political problem, and there is some legal rules.
But I think if this organization said, "Hey, we'd like to study this," that maybe this could be advanced. And I think it's serious. I notice several heads shaking and agreeing with me on this, and it's not that I'm the only one raising this issue.
On the second issue, Mr. Cloutier earlier was talking about the compliance programs. I think we've got a situation. I think the Agency very quickly talks about the bad actors, and we all want to go after the bad actors. But what about those of us that for years have diligently, strongly, prosecuted safety programs because we believe in it. Not only because it's good business but our most important asset is our people. And we can't have that without a good safety program.
But in the same token, why must we as contractors that do a good job, why can't we get some credit for being the good actor? That's not to say that if we goof, if we make a mistake, which we're going to, that we shouldn't suffer penalties. But I think there also ought to be some credit for us having done a good job, and it could certainly be less time consuming.
And I think it was Ms. Oliver who was talking earlier, that the process right now is well over a year to get qualified. It doesn't allow you to be qualified in the area of a specific -- in my case I would need many sites. As Mr. Cloutier said, and as someone else commented this morning, most job sites are over and gone in 9 to 10 months. This doesn't help me. I need something that's -- you talk about multi-employer, I need multi-site. And I need me as the contractor qualified. And I need it done in a reasonably short period of time without necessarily the bureaucracy that's involved now with the VPP program. We need to be able to work together.
I think that and there is a couple of you in this room that know me, I've always been very vocal about this agency. But in the same token, I like the idea of a lot of things that have happened in the last couple of years. The focused inspection is probably the best thing you've done.
But there are opportunities here, that I think I heard Mr. Cloutier talk about earlier, allowing us in the community to start directly dealing with the Agency and giving, if nothing else, feedback. And I think that they are in a box, but I don't think this agency or this advisory committee is in quite that box.
And I think you folks can very easily say, "Okay, Rich. Put up or shut up. Do you want to be on some sort of committee?" My answer is "Yes." And in fact I'll bring you four or five other safety directors from the local area with no problems and probably in less than 48 hours notice. But we need that help to start letting the Agency hear from those persons that they regulate. And I'm sure that there is some very good honest solutions we could make and quickly.
And I ask you to consider those two areas, multi-employer work sites, as far as how they are dealt with by the Agency. There is, and I will admit to being one of those that has recently made some complaints to Mr. Swanson on that subject, there has been an increase recently. But I think that we can resolve some of that and, again, get some credit for being the good guy. And we do need some help in that other area, as it relates to credit for a good program and what we're about. Thank you sir.
MR. NICHOLS: Okay. I'd like to comment, before we take other comments, that yesterday I had mentioned for anyone that was sitting here in the public that wished to participate in the work groups, if you get your names and information in to the co-chairs of those work groups, that would be appreciated.
And we've handed out, or it was outside on the table, a list of the committee members so that you know who to participate in. And we'll hand out the committee assignments which will be open for your review also. Steve?
MR. COOPER: Your comments are well taken. As Tim pointed out, there is a work group on Safety Excellence Recognition. The gentleman on my left is the co-chairman. You can see him after our meeting and I'm sure you can participate in helping to design safety recognition.
MR. PFAU: Absolutely.
MR. COOPER: The other concern on multi-work sites, I think it may become difficult as the regulations, the written word, describes the action that should be taken on multiple work sites in the Federal Register. That would be much more difficult. You said it might be easy. It wouldn't be easy. This problem is across the nation. The manner in which contractual agreements are made by contract on the construction site. And that works both ways with the subcontractors who come in and complain also about the CM or general.
MR. PFAU: Sure.
MR. COOPER: But it is an issue, and I certainly agree with you.
MR. PFAU: Thank you, Mr. Cooper.
MR. NICHOLS: Felipe?
MR. DEVORA: Backing up to a moment ago to Bruce's comment. When we talked about the multi-employer, you said that you characterized it as a perception. And I think, don't we have a Data Task Force? Is that correct, that we're going to be collecting some data? Is that some data that your office could see? These numbers with the two for one citations, can you break those out as far as multi-employer citations as a category?
MR. SWANSON: I will take a look after this meeting as to what our IMIS database allows us to generate. If we can't readily generate it from what we already have, to meet the earlier question as to what are the numbers, and are they growing, and what are the trends, and et cetera, then it perhaps is something that ought to come back to the data group and say, "What can we do with this?" I'll ask the same question in-house too, as to how we can generate this.
MR. NICHOLS: And get rid of the perception or decide if it's an accurate perception.
MR. SWANSON: Right.
MR. SWANSON: Any other questions or comments to Rich?
MR. NICHOLS: Thank you.
MR. PFAU: Thank you.
MR. NICHOLS: Next?
MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, my name is George Kennedy. I'm the Director of Safety for the National Utility Contractors Association. And like this gentleman just here spoke about his VPP, we represent a number of contractors around the country, most of which are small contractors.
Our guys don't spend more than a week on most sites. And, however, we have a lot of good contractors who have excellence records, and we can show you some of the stats, if you are ever interested. And, basically, what I'm saying is I think OSHA is going in the wrong direction with VPP starting at the top with the big sites. The exposures are with the smaller companies.
The big companies have safety directors, safety departments, that are generally actively involved in safety issues. And if you are going to give a break and help out the contractors, let's do it with the small guys. Let's get some of them qualified as companies. They are carrying their program from site to site, and they are using it. And they are, like this gentleman, concerned about their people.
And I think this task force or the Safety Excellence Recognition Task Force should look at this issue. And instead of spending a fortune a lot of money on four big companies when you can reach out to hundreds of small companies, probably for the same dollar, I think you need to look at that. That's all I have to say on that.
But there is another issue that's more of an administrative thing that I'd like to address, and that is the value of the Internet. The Internet that OSHA has developed has been excellence. It's growing, it's full of good information, technical information as well as general information about what's going on in OSHA. And one of the things we don't see out there is the minutes from these meetings.
And I think even though the construction industry is somewhat represented here, there is a lot of groups and a lot of trades that are not represented. Underground contractors for one. And I have a number of members that I think would like to know what's going on here who would like to attend these meetings, but because of cost, and travel, and time cannot make it to these meetings. And, of course, they come to me and they ask me what went on and I tell them what I can.
But even myself, sitting here in the room, I often miss some of the discussions, or parts of the discussions that take place, partly because the microphones aren't used all the time properly, or a conversation starts and then the microphone is brought up and then we've missed the first part of the conversation.
So what I'm suggesting is that the ACCSH Committee ask OSHA to put the minutes and an Executive summary online so that we can read these minutes, and so that other people can share it. And it would be also nice if you had a search capability so people could search certain topics, such as respirators, or PPE that was discussed here this week.
And also give them an opportunity to maybe give some feedback to the committee, to ACCSH. Have an ACCSH e-mail address, where they can send some e-mail back to you and maybe some comments on their thoughts.
I think you'll be representing the industry more, you'll have more feedback and more input, labor as well as employers can give feedback because everybody is online. Well, not everybody but a lot of people are online today. And we find in our industry, in our particular association, it's growing at about 5 to 10 percent a year in terms of our members going online. So that's my suggestion, and I just wanted to bring it to your attention.
MR. NICHOLS: Thank you, George, we appreciate it. Bruce?
MR. SWANSON: Yes, Mr. Kennedy, the idea of putting the minutes online seems to me to be imminently doable. And until somebody explains to me differently, we ought to be able to do that. Whether or not it's an executive summary="" that goes with it, we'll take a look at that as well.
The other suggestions, we'll take under advisement and see what we can do. My office provides staff to ACCSH. And ACCSH just set up 14 committees that I suspect that somebody is going to suggest that we provide staff service to each of those 14 committees too. But we will do what we can with the resources we have and we'll take a look at having an interactive setup.
MR. KENNEDY: What I'm talking about with the Internet, I'm not just talking about the minutes. I mean you are taping the whole thing, you put the transcription up. I know they used to make a document, the committee used to get that whole entire document. But actually who wants to carry around 50 to 100 pages? If we could go online and search out a particular area of interest, we can get the information we need. And I hope it can happen soon.
MR. SWANSON: We'll take a look at it.
MR. KENNEDY: Thank you.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other comments or questions? Thank you.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Hi. My name is Mark Friedman. I'm the Director of Government Affairs for the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America. And I'd like to respond to a couple of points that Marie made about NIOSH's mission and some of the activities they have going on.
First, you asked to be corrected on the lead removal figure. And I believe that the removal level is 50 micrograms per deciliter of blood, 40 is a notification level. You have to be removed when your blood is 50, you are notified at 40. So, that correction.
The other point, and it's more significant I think, is the question of what NIOSH's mission is in terms of research versus other activities. And I'm a little bit curious because I always understood NIOSH to be a fact gathering and a research organization, and some of the things that you mentioned seemed to stray a little bit.
And to be honest with you, I think some of the things you are doing are very useful but I'm curious why OSHA is not doing them. Specifically, you talked about some compliance assistance for the Respiratory Protection Program. You talked about trying to put together a step by step type of thing. And that's always been the kind of thing that I would have liked to see OSHA do. I don't think the Agency has done nearly enough.
In fact, I'm not sure they've done anything in terms of putting out those types of programs that contractors can use. And so I guess I'd like to see a little dialogue between Bruce and you about where the two groups interact, and how you guys decide, if you do have that interaction, about who is going to do what and whether that's something that OSHA should be doing more than NIOSH. Ding.
MR. SWANSON: I would love to have dialogue with Marie. If NIOSH is going to be giving something up, and OSHA is going to be taking something over, as you well understand, Mark, it is not going to be done at our level. We'll have conversations.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Well, the question sort of goes to the heart of the mission of either agency. And, I mean, I think NIOSH tends to be somewhat aggressive in trying to go and find things that they can be doing and sort of developing their agenda. And yet Bruce said these things would naturally be something that -- I'd like to see your, in fact, very specifically your office take on because that's the crying need in the industry right now.
It is, you know, when my members come to me and say, "Well, how do we comply with the lead standard?" These regulations are a series of requirements. There is no procedure, there is no description about how someone is supposed to make their way through and become compliant.
I mean, I'll tell you a quick little story. I got a call, I can't even remember how long ago, maybe a year and a half or so, from NIOSH, who said, "We understand that you've produced the definitive manual on how to comply with the OSHA lead standard, we'd like to take a look at it and see if we can use it for something." I said, "Wonderful. Where were you three years ago and where was OSHA three years ago?"
So it's that kind of an effort that I would like to see the Agency look at doing. That's really the heart of my thoughts. I was just really getting into the question of what the two agencies can do together. And I notice that some of the things that you were looking at doing under your research areas sounded very similar to the efforts that were discussed earlier by OSHA. And I was curious whether there is a concern about overlapping there or whether you are on a separate track altogether?
MR. NICHOLS: Marie?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: I think in general what we try to do is respond to OSHA's request in terms of getting research data. And I have to admit, if OSHA is going to make different goals, we're going to develop methods, and do research in methods development, and also in how we can collect data relative to small contractors in residential construction, and help them intervene. So I don't think there is a lot of overlap.
I think what they have an emphasis on residential construction. But what we're seeing is that there is a need for information and data that can go to them. And also there is a need for methods development for new research methods for residential construction which hadn't been done before. So there may be an overlap in topical area, but in terms of content, I think we're going to be complementary. And, definitely, Bruce and I will be and are talking. Mostly right now at meetings.
MR. FRIEDMAN: Are the other people that Bruce cites so frequently as calling the shots, are they talking?
MS. HARING-SWEENEY: Dr. Rosenstock had a good working relationship with Mr. Dear. And I would think she will have the same with Mr. Jeffress.
MR. NICHOLS: Any other comments?
MR. NICHOLS: Hearing none, thank you for your participation. Next?
MS. HARRIS: Hi. My name is Claudia Harris, and I'm the Director of Government Relations for the National Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors. And Mr. Chairman, I just have two administrative requests from you and this committee and from Bruce's office.
The first is, people back here, sorry Bruce, people back here for years have been asking if the materials that are available to the Committee members also be made available to the public prior to the meetings so that the organizations that we represent can prepare for topics that may come before this committee at the meeting, and use the opportunity for public comment, such as this, to respond to issues that you've talked about.
And I would like to reiterate that request that when the meeting materials do become available, and I know sometimes it's the last minute. Even if it's our own responsibility to obtain those materials, not having your offices mail them out. I mean, I'd be more than willing to come here and pick them up myself.
But having those materials available prior to the meeting, I think would help everything and everyone involved. And I guess maybe, at a minimum, to please have extra copies available at the tables in back, or outside, or however you do that. But, obviously, the sooner the better.
And, secondly, related to that is handouts that are passed out during the meeting, that are provided by Agency personnel during their reports, such as the handout of committee and work groups that you just passed out. If you could please have enough of those available for the public.
I don't know if you do now, but you've mentioned several times that it's our obligation to talk to the committee work group co-chairs. But if we don't know and we weren't quick enough with our writing yesterday to write that down, we don't know who they are, so we can't contact them. Then we have to go through Bruce, and that makes a lot of work.
So I guess they are both intrinsically related, but just have the materials available. And if we can help, we will.
MR. NICHOLS: We'll do our best to have the materials available. And I do have copies. And I apologize for not having those available yesterday prior to the start of the meeting. So we'll do our best.
MS. HARRIS: Thank you. That's all I ask.
MR. NICHOLS: Michael.
MR. BUCHET: We're moving into the Internet age. Isn't there a way, echoing what Mr. Kennedy said earlier, of putting almost all of this material on the Net? An ACCSH page that people can look at. And what we had before the meeting would be posted, downloaded, and make copies?
MR. SWANSON: Yes. I'd just reiterate what I said before, we'll look at our capacity and work load capacity to get all of this out. And I know when you make the suggestion, that you had an asterisk. You know there is some material that was not ready for dissemination to the whole world prior to this meeting, and it went to Committee members only, and that was intentionally. But that's not always the case, to be sure.
MR. NICHOLS: I think everybody understands that. Any other public comment? Steve?
MR. COOPER: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to address this to Mr. Swanson. As relates to the subcommittees, usually we have a contact within the Agency. And I know as relates to the Sanitation Committee, which myself and Jane Williams are co-chairing, it has been Ellen Roznowski. Does that still stand? Do these committees need to know who their contact is within Agency?
MR. SWANSON: Yes. Each of the committees, we will be assigning someone to be your contact person. And you, as a co-chair, will be informed as to who has received that assignment, Steve.
MR. COOPER: Thank you.
MR. NICHOLS: Other comments?
MR. NICHOLS: Prior to the next meeting, we will get a draft of the Policy and Procedures of the ACCSH out to the group so that you can look it over and we can discuss it at the next meeting. For those of us that are new, we may not know quite all the policies and procedures and it would be nice for that to be available.
Secondly, I would like to thank all of those that participated in giving reports to the committee, we appreciate your reports. And to the staff that also helped to put the meeting together, we appreciate your efforts in making everything available to the committee.
And we look forward to as a committee to sharing your knowledge and expertise with ours in moving ACCSH forward. So is there any other comments, statements, questions? Steve.
MR. COOPER: Do you have a date for the next committee meeting?
MR. NICHOLS: No. We will do that and get it out in advance more quickly than we did in the past. Bruce.
MR. SWANSON: May I state that, as you well know, Steve, what was done in the past, which doesn't mean that it has to be followed here, but what was done in the past is we had some discussion before you left the table as to what was not available for you folks. And we would try and work within those parameters.
I get the strong sense that the Assistant Secretary is going to involve himself more in this committee than maybe his predecessors have. So another factor is, I will have to ascertain what his schedule will allow as well. But if there is something that doesn't work, it would certainly be helpful to know that ahead of time.
MR. NICHOLS: Steve.
MR. COOPER: Well, the question is going to be which month are you talking about?
MR. SWANSON: Historically, what has happened is you tried to have these meetings four times a year. That doesn't mean that it has to be every 90 days and not 91 or 92. But within those general guidelines. So somewhere three months from now is when I would assume that you would be looking for your next meeting.
MR. COOPER: To me that means July.
MR. NICHOLS: What we'll do is we'll put a proposed three months schedule out from now until the end of the year and then ask for your input in how that works. And we'll get a tentative date set up, knowing that there may be a time that we have to adjust the meeting for urgency of an issue or because of the scheduling of the committee.
But we'll attempt to do that far enough in advance where you can set up the next meeting and prepare for the final two of the year. Bruce.
MR. SWANSON: One of the more helpful suggestions that we had, that I received from the committee, is why don't we set the room up a day ahead of time. Schedule the meeting the day before everyone's going to get here and maybe we'll -- I thank you for that, whoever made that suggestion.
MR. NICHOLS: Hearing no other comments, journey safely. And a motion to adjourn would be in order.
MR. COOPER: So move.
MR. EDGINGTON: Second.
MR. NICHOLS: Move to support, all in favor leave. All opposed stay here.
(Whereupon, at 11:35 a.m., the meeting was concluded.)Back to Top