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Talking Points for Dr. David Michaels
On Final Rule for General Working Conditions in Shipyard Employment

  • Hello. I am Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
  • Today, I want to tell you about a new rule – one that will save lives and prevent injuries in our nation’s shipyards.
  • One death or even one injury is one too many for workers, employers … and for OSHA. The new shipyard rule is an important step in making shipyards safer places to work.
  • Let me tell you why.
  • To start, the final rule is expected to prevent over 348 injuries and at least one fatality every year. That’s 348 workers who go home safe and sound … and one more worker who otherwise wouldn’t go home at all.
  • To accomplish that, the rule addresses many significant issues.  But there are two that are especially important: control of hazardous energy, generally known as lockout/tagout … and use of seatbelts.
  • These are new areas of coverage for shipyard workers – ones where we expect the greatest benefits in terms of saving lives and reducing injuries.
  • As many of you know, general lockout/tagout protections have not applied to shipyards because of the unique nature of the maritime industry. You need a rule tailored to your needs – one that takes into account what happens in shipyards and on fish-processing vessels.
  • We heard those concerns, and we addressed them – including the need for a special lockout/tagout coordinator, customized logs and specialized procedures when more than one employee is involved.
  • The new rule also clarifies safety measures as well as requirements for training, incident investigations and recordkeeping.
  • The bottom line is this: hazardous energy can cause machinery or equipment to start unexpectedly … or it can be released during servicing or maintenance operations. And when that happens, workers can be seriously hurt or even killed.
  • That’s why is so important that we have a rule tailored to the needs of the industry and its workers … a rule that is practical and makes sense … and, most importantly, a rule that reduces accidents, cuts down on injuries and saves lives.
  • The second major issue covered by the new rule is use of seatbelts.
  • Transportation accidents currently account for nearly 20 percent of all fatalities among shipyard employees … not to mention a significant number of injuries.
  • Most of us don’t think twice about buckling up when we get into a car or truck. We know it’s required … and we know it saves lives.
  • The same principle applies here. The new rule is specific to shipyards; it doesn’t apply to public streets or highways. But the common sense that governs the rules of the road is the same for protecting workers at shipyards.
  • Again, the bottom line is reducing injuries and saving lives.
  • The new rule covers many other issues … eliminating slippery conditions and the accidents that result, adequate lighting, medical services and first aid, communications system, sanitation and much more.
  • But, by far, the two most significant features are lockout/tagout and use of seatbelts.
  • OSHA did not come to this rulemaking casually. Two separate industry advisory committees weighed in over a period of years – the Shipyard Employment Standards Advisory Committee and MACOSH, the Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
  • We took their advice into account … and in 2007 published a proposed rule for comment.
  • But we didn’t stop there. In 2008 we held public hearings – one in Washington, DC, and one in Seattle so the industry and the unions could talk to us directly about their interests, needs and concerns.
  • We received 50 comments on the proposal, and 35 stakeholders appeared at the hearings.
  • Among those we heard from were the American Shipbuilding Association, the Shipbuilders Council of America, the United Steelworkers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.
  • We listened to what they told us. And in the end, we have a better, stronger and more practical standard as a result.
  • We have a performance-based standard – one that allows options and flexibility to meet the goals.  It’s not one-size-fits-all rulemaking to be sure.
  • For example, in the first-aid section, the rule offers employers an option of providing either on-site or off-site care.  The point isn’t where the care is provided, but rather that it is provided in line with the necessary requirements.
  • Under lockout/tagout, employers can choose either locks or tags in certain situations … so long as the safety requirements are met and workers are protected.
  • In the motor vehicles section, we wanted to make sure both drivers and pedestrians were protected. We proposed three ways to do it. But employers told us there were other, equally protective options. So the final rule offers seven options – four coming directly from industry.
  • Employers can offer dedicated travel lanes, speed limits, crosswalks, street signs, no-drive times and so on – as long as the goals are met.
  • One more example involves eliminating slippery conditions that lead to falls. We proposed a rule that required elimination as conditions occurred. You told us that is not always possible.
  • We heard you. The final rule offers options such as providing slip-resistant footwear and clearing specified sections for designated work areas.
  • Performance-based rulemaking makes sense. It provides choices among good options so employers have flexibility and workers’ protection needs are met.
  • That is a good solution – for the industry, for its employees and for OSHA.
  • Shortly, we will be providing materials to help employers – particularly small ones – understand and implement the new rules.
  • In the meantime, we stand ready to work with you to make sure the most important resource of all – human life – is protected.

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