• Information Date
  • Presented To
    Quanta Infrastructure Safety Symposium
  • Speaker(s)
    Jim Frederick


Jim Frederick
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health

Quanta Infrastructure Safety Symposium
April 21, 2022

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this event.

Your focus on safety at Quanta is remarkable and commendable. Your approach of thinking about safety differently is powerful and shows a real commitment to providing the most safe and healthful environment, a learning workplace, for workers. Your commitment to safety aligns with our strategic vision at OSHA. We want every workplace in America to establish health and safety as a core value.

At OSHA we understand that there are three broad categories of companies and employers.

  • Those that do not take safety and health seriously. They do not consider the workspace for workers and do not see the need to ensure that that space is safe.
  • Those that want to ensure a safe and healthful work environment but need a bit of help and some resources to get there. We provide resources to those employers.
  • And employers who make health and safety a priority. For these business owners, safety is at the center of what they do. Quanta is one of those employers.

To get there, we know that the voices of workers must be heard throughout the companies they work for and at OSHA. Workers know their jobs and how to do them safely. Their experience matters and they deserve to be heard, especially on the critically important topic of safety and health.

It can become easy for us in this line of work to think of safety and health as simply implementing a safety and health management system and everything will be fine. That is our safety professions black line… But we know that work as performed is so much more vital to understand. By gaining an understanding of the blue line, we unlock the potential for operational excellence.

Yes, systems are important—even essential. However, we have to remember that this is really about people and even the very best people make mistakes. That's why the human performance factors accepting the reality of mistakes and err are vital to operational excellence.

It's also why your attention to human performance principles at Quanta is so good and important.

Considering human performance, be it integrating the five principles or utilizing a learning team to improve operations, really is the essence of making health and safety a core value and listening to the workers.

It's certainly something we must consider when working in hot environments. While we know that heat is a hazard for workers year-round, we are entering the time of year when it is a greater hazard for many more workers. We are taking significant actions to protect workers from heat related injuries and illnesses.

We know the dangers associated with heat are only going to get worse with the current trends of climate change. Not only does excessive heat cause heat stroke and even death, it also exacerbates existing health problems like asthma, kidney failure, and heart disease.

Because workers of color disproportionately make up the population of employees in who are exposed to high levels of heat, the health risk also intensifies socioeconomic and racial inequalities in America.

Last week Vice President Harris and Secretary Walsh announced OSHA's first National Emphasis Program on heat. The NEP targets over 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings.

On Tuesday, we will host a public forum on OSHA's ongoing activities to protect workers from heat-related hazards and introduce our rulemaking process and ways to participate in that process.

Earlier this year, our National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) convened its Heat Working Group. This group of experts will provide valuable insights into how we should proceed with our heat efforts.

We know we have to act now to protect workers. We are glad for the momentum that we are generating in this effort, and we welcome your input on how we can best protect workers from heat-related injuries and illness.

We are also excited about the positive impacts that will come from the significant investment in our infrastructure.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will bring $550 billion of new spending on construction projects to cities and rural areas across the country.

Safety must be incorporated into these projects from the outset. OSHA will play an integral role in helping keep the workers on those projects safe as they rebuild our roads, bridges, airports, railways, power grid, and other parts of our infrastructure.

We look forward to working with you and other industry leaders and business owners as they work to keep the workers of these projects safe.

A key feature of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is job opportunities and there will be many new workers employed in these projects. So we need to make sure everyone one of them knows and understands their rights.

Workers have the right to the correct, proper fitting, and maintained protective equipment and training on how to properly use the equipment. The training must be in the language and using vocabulary that they can understand. Only then does this control meet it necessary potential. Workers also have the right to raise safety and health concerns on the job without fear of retaliation. They have the right to report unsafe conditions to their supervisors and/or directly to us at OSHA.

It is critical that every worker knows about these rights and that they are empowered to speak up if they feel like they are being denied any of them. And that we break down the barriers to their speaking up.

Obviously, enforcement is a major part of what we do at OSHA. We have to ensure that business owners comply with standards. We are working, though, to help business owners go beyond compliance – to change their culture.

This includes identifying businesses that view workers as disposable and consider unsafe work conditions as part of their business model. Those companies need to be compelled to change.

Worker health and safety is not just an OSHA requirement; it is good business. Find a successful business and you most likely find an effective safety management system.

Job-related injuries and illnesses do not just hurt workers and their families. They hurt the businesses, too. Implementing effective safety and health management systems will save businesses money and improve competitiveness.

We want all businesses to go beyond just compliance. Many businesses do that already. Those businesses have effective safety programs in place and are examples of how to protect workers. Other businesses do not value safety and health of their workers and we at OSHA work to find those businesses and enforce standards. Other businesses want to do a better job or protecting workers but need some help and guidance in doing. OSHA has the expertise and resources for those businesses.

We are working with our partners and through our alliances to help businesses go beyond compliance and establish health and safety as a core value for themselves.

We want to help every business owner establish Safety and Health Programs that will take them beyond compliance.

A few moments ago, I talked about the human element and human performance in safety and health in the workplace. We can get caught up in discussions about rulemaking, compliance, inspections, and everything else about enforcement. Those are necessary parts of any discussion about safety and health.

It is equally important, though, to share human stories about safety. It is those stories about people that remind us that safety really is a people business. The facts and figures of compliance guide us as we do our jobs, but the stories of the people inspire us to do our jobs.

Justin Harrington was a young man, 27 years old, from Gloucester, Massachusetts in 2018 when he died in a construction incident. He was pinned between an excavator and a steel beam.

Justin's mother, Rena, spoke to some members of our OSHA team recently for our Worker Memorial Day event that we are putting together. She told us that because of his young age and connections to so many other people, his death impacted the whole community.

She also told us, "I'm not the same person since he passed."

We know that every single worker fatality deeply impacts families and communities. Our goal is to reduce and eliminate the number of those communities that are so deeply impacted and the number of family members who will never be the same person after losing a loved one in a work-related fatality.

We want health and safety to be entrenched into the fabric of every workplace.

The waste management industry deals with the hazard of people throwing away lithium-ion batteries. These batteries can and do catch on fire while the waste is being transported in trucks that move throughout our neighborhoods and communities every day. Fires on those trucks and at waste transfer facilities are a common occurrence. The industry frequently loses trucks and facilities to fires several times a year.

I was recently told about a woman who was working as a waste truck driver when her load caught on fire. She was trained and confident enough to extinguish the fire, save the truck, continue her route, and pick up her child from school at the end of the day.

This could have been a tragedy that thankfully ended up being a success story because the company she works for values safety and health and gave her the tools she needed to do her job safely and return to her family at the end of her shift.

Nearly 5,000 workers died as the result of work-related injuries in 2020. This number does not include the those who died of illness, like COVID-19, that year. That number is only fatalities from traumatic injuries.

April 28, next Thursday, is Worker Memorial Day. It is a day each year that we stop and reflect on those lives that have been lost due to work-related injuries. We think about the thousands of families and friends that are impacted by those deaths and we recommit to our noble mission of protecting workers.

We will be hosting a virtual Workers Memorial Day event on Thursday where several people will be sharing their stories about the workers—the people—they knew and loved who died on the job. Rena Harrington will be sharing her story about her son, Justin. I invite you to join us on the OSHA YouTube channel at 1 p.m. (ET) on April 28.

We are working to help every business owner in America align their core values with every person's individual value of safety for themselves and their families. We want every worker to go home to their family and friends at the end of their shift.

Every worker matters to OSHA. It does not matter the race, gender, age, citizenship status, or anything else. Our mission is to ensure the safety and health of all workers. This isn't some grand theory – it is every worker's right!

Thank you for inviting me today. I'd be happy to answer whatever questions you may have.