North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week
Frances Perkins Building, Department of Labor (DOL), Washington, D.C.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Good morning, and welcome to the 2010 NAOSH Week campaign kick-off.
OSHA is pleased to host this event and to join our NAOSH Week supporters and their families as we set the stage for a week of important activities to raise awareness of worker safety and health.
This morning we will hear the views of distinguished safety and health leaders from engineering safety societies in the United States and Canada.
Then, we'll get to hear from the young designers in our audience who will tell us how their posters relate to this year's NAOSH Week theme: "Mission 2010: Safe Workplaces." These posters, inspired by ASSE's annual contest, have been circulated nationwide as part of the 2010 NAOSH Week campaign.
All across North America this week, employers and workers will take time during the workday to consider how to sustain and improve their efforts to stay safe and healthy at work.
Representatives from the American Association of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and their families, the Canadian Society for Safety Engineering (CSSE), along with OSHA and our Alliance Program participants, are all here today to proclaim our goal: To see that every working man and woman in North America comes home safe and healthy at the end of every workday.
Here in OSHA, we are working with the staff to fulfill Labor Secretary Hilda Solis' vision of "Good Jobs For Everyone" -- bearing in mind that no job is a good job unless it's a safe job.
In Congress last week, Dr. Michaels and I addressed House and Senate committees that are looking to strengthen OSHA's authority to enforce laws designed to protect workers from occupational hazards. If Congress and President Obama enact the Protecting America's Workers Act, it will be the most sweeping reform of this agency's powers since OSHA was created 40 years ago.
Congress is looking at this reform because it isn't right when most businesses do the right thing and expend the necessary resources to ensure their workers' safety, while others seek an unfair advantage by cutting corners and risking the safety and health of their workers' lives.
OSHA is committed to making sure every employer plays by the rules and offers workers training, protective equipment, and a voice in managing workplace hazards.
For businesses earnestly trying to comply with the law, OSHA will make sure that they have the information and assistance they need to protect their workers. Compliance assistance products and programs like the On-site Consultation Program remain a critical tool in OSHA's tool bag. Last year more than 30,000 businesses nationwide took advantage of the free consultation service, and we're looking to invest more in this service to ensure that it remains available to help.
Just this week, OSHA launched a redesigned Web page to help small businesses easily find resources they need to protect their workers.
One message OSHA would like NAOSH Week participants to convey to their members is that it's vital for employers to adopt a three-part worker safety strategy: Plan, Prevent and Protect.
This strategy is at the heart of a new proposed rule that the Labor Department announced last week as part of its spring regulatory agenda. The proposed standard would require each employer to implement an Injury and Illness Prevention Program tailored to the actual hazards in that employer's workplace.
Instead of waiting for an OSHA inspection or a workplace injury to Instead of waiting for an OSHA inspection or a workplace injury to address a hazard, employers would be required to create a plan for identifying and reducing or preventing hazards, and then implementing this plan to protect workers. Plan, Prevent and Protect.
Essentially, we will be asking employers to find safety and health hazards in their workplaces that could hurt workers, and then fix those hazards.
OSHA will soon initiate rulemaking on this standard, with stakeholder meetings in several cities. We'll announce dates and locations soon.
The main thing to keep in mind is that workplace injuries are no accident.
The theme for 2010 NAOSH Week, "Mission 2010: Safe Workplaces" makes me think about an old and very popular TV show called "Mission: Impossible."
The younger folks in the audience may have heard their parents mention it, or you may know that actor Tom Cruise has starred in movies based on "Mission: Impossible." Well, ASSE, CSSE and the Department of Labor believe that workplace safety is far from an impossible mission.
If we made a TV show about the importance of the NAOSH mission, we'd probably call it "Mission: Possible and Required" -- because employers are legally required to protect their workers and, with proper planning, it's absolutely possible to prevent workplace injuries.
Training is an essential part of prevention. I'm sure that the many young people in our audience today, including the winners of the American Society of Safety Engineers' annual ASSE Kids' "Safety on the Job" poster contest, have experienced safety training in school.
For example, your teachers have instructed you what to do in case of a fire, haven't they? In fact, haven't you practiced during fire drills for just such an emergency to be sure you know what to do when a real emergency happens? Of course you have. This is a perfect example of Plan, Prevent and Protect.
Your parents and teachers have taught you safety procedures for crossing a street, haven't they? What should you always do? That's right: STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.
If you earn money in small jobs after school, on weekends and in the summer, you should receive instructions on how to safely use a lawn mower, how to safely ride your bike while delivering newspapers, or how to stay safe and keep others safe while baby sitting.
When you're older and applying for your driver's license, you'll receive training on how to drive a car in traffic. Your mission, every time you get behind the wheel, will be to avoid distractions, stay focused on the road, anticipate hazards, consider the safety of everyone around you, use proper protective equipment -- your seatbelt -- and get to your destination safely.
Later, when you get your first job as an adult, it will be the same procedure: You should receive training to learn how to operate equipment safely and follow procedures to avoid injuring yourself and others. Depending on your job, you may be issued a hard hat, padded gloves or safety glasses. Above all, your employer will be responsible for establishing a plan that helps find and fix hazards before they can harm.
There's something else that everyone here, of every age, needs to remember: Workplaces are everywhere. We may be driving along a highway, on vacation with our families, and racing to get around a convoy of long delivery trucks. It may not occur to us that those drivers are on the job, delivering food or other goods to stores, but they are, and the highway is their workplace. So, if we're texting, talking on the phone or looking at maps and vacation brochures instead of focusing on driving safely, we're putting that working truck driver and everyone else on the road in danger.
So, workplace safety is everywhere, and NAOSH Week serves as a reminder that every employer is responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace every day and all year long.
NAOSH Week is an invitation for every employer to work with OSHA and its NAOSH Week partners to look for ways to find and fix workplace hazards.
SPEAKERS AND GUESTS
This is the 14th anniversary of NAOSH Week. This campaign was launched in June 1997 through an agreement with Canada, the United States and Mexico.
I would like everyone to join me in welcoming my colleagues and co-sponsors of NAOSH Week:
Christopher Patton, President of the American Society of Safety Engineers
Andrew Cooper, Secretary of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.
I appreciate their being here, and in a few minutes we will hear why NAOSH Week is important to them and their distinguished organizations.
This is the sixth year that, through OSHA's Alliance Program, the Agency has sponsored this NAOSH Week kick-off event. With us today are representatives of about a dozen Alliance Program participants. Welcome, all.
All across our continent this week, 40 participants in OSHA's Alliance Program are demonstrating their commitment to workplace safety and health by sharing the NAOSH Week message with their members and the public.
We are kicking off the campaign today here in Washington, but the efforts of organizations, such as these Alliance Program participants, that will make this campaign a success. We depend on them to spread the 2010 NAOSH Week message, "Mission 2010: Safe Workplaces."
It is time to hear from our two distinguished speakers.
Our first speaker is an award-winning occupational safety, health and environmental professional. He is the recipient of the Safety Professional of the Year (SPY) honor from his local chapter and the ASSE Charles V. Culbertson Outstanding Volunteer Service honor.
Besides serving as the current president of ASSE, he directs UT-Battelle's Safety Services Division at Oak Ridge National Lab. He has lectured on worker safety around the world, including England, Australia and Kuwait.
He is a dedicated safety expert and volunteer serving now as the president of the 99-year-old American Society of Safety Engineers, representing more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals worldwide.
As you can imagine, he is busy these days helping ASSE prepare to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year and to consider the direction of this important safety organization as it embarks on its second century of service.
Busy as he is, he took time in March to travel here and present ASSE's views during our day-long "OSHA Listens" forum. I'm delighted to welcome him back today.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the president of American Society of Safety Engineers, Christopher Patton.
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Now we are going to hear from the Secretary of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, our Canadian Chairperson for NAOSH Week is a certified Health and Safety Consultant, a professional member of CSSE and a global member of ASSE.
At the University of Alberta, he is the Security, Health and Safety Advisor for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.
In more than 20 years of wide-ranging experience in health and safety, he has worked in a variety of sectors — manufacturing, property management, municipal management, distribution, consulting and training.
We are fortunate that he has become a fixture here at the annual NAOSH Week kickoff because he always brings great energy, passion and perception to his remarks.
He's surely pumped up with national pride this year after Canada's terrific performance as host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, so I expect he will have some especially winning words for us on staying safe and healthy at work and at play.
Please welcome the Secretary of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering: Andrew Cooper.
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I sincerely hope that the young people here today will take with them the lessons of workplace safety and health. I hope you'll share what you learn with your brothers and sisters, your friends and their parents, and with your teachers.
When you are old enough to take a part-time job after school, on weekends or during summer vacation, please remember:
Every job presents some hazards. Success comes from finding and fixing those hazards before they can harm.
You have a right to ask for training and safety instructions.
If anything doesn't seem safe, you need to find the courage to ask questions. The only foolish question is: "Why didn't I ask about working safely before I began?"
Kids used to work in far more dangerous jobs than today. Today there's a lot more information and protections, but you still need training.
OSHA and its NAOSH Week partners are concerned about another group of workers. Evidence shows that Latinos often work in the most unhealthy and dangerous jobs on the continent.
Because many of them do not speak or read English well, they don't always know their legal rights to a safe workplace. Many are untrained in addressing workplace hazards. Many face discrimination because of language barriers. Many also are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.
This is why, last month in Houston, Secretary Solis convened the first-ever National Action Summit for Latino Worker Health and Safety.
More than a thousand workers, employers, labor leaders, representatives from community and faith-based organizations, consulates and government gathered for two days in Houston. Together, we sought new and effective ways to improve workers' knowledge of their workplace rights and their ability to exercise those rights.
I want to thank ASSE members, especially members from Region III and ASSE's Safety Professionals And Latino Workforce (SPALW) group, for all their behind-the-scenes and up-front support of the Summit.
As a direct outcome of the Latino Summit, federal OSHA issued a memorandum on April 28, directing all field staff, when they conduct inspections, to determine whether training and education required by OSHA standards is provided in the language that workers can understand. In this way, OSHA is sending a clear message for workers: No matter where you are from or what language you speak, you have rights in the workplace.
This concludes our campaign kick-off this morning, but it's only part of a full day of events for our young guests, who will be visiting the United States Capitol this afternoon and enjoying many other sights here in Washington, D.C.
On behalf of OSHA and the United States Department of Labor, I want to thank our Alliance Program participants for making the 2010 NAOSH Week campaign a success.
Thanks to our guest speakers from ASSE and CSSE, and the young people who contributed their poster art this morning.
Finally, on behalf of Secretary Solis, everyone in OSHA, and me: Thanks for everything you are doing to promote worker safety and health - during NAOSH Week and all year long.