• Information Date
  • Presented To
    Waste Expo
  • Speaker(s)
    Jim Frederick


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

Waste Expo
May 12, 2022

Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this event. It’s great to be here and doing events in person.

Through the course of my experience, I recognized both the important contribution to health & safety that workers provide and the value of collaborating with all stakeholders to reach the best end.

At OSHA, we want every workplace in America to establish health and safety as a core value. That’s the bottom line. We know that that is the best way—really the only way—to reduce and even eliminate the workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

We understand that there are three broad and general groups of 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 and healthful. Those employers require a great deal of attention in the form of compliance assistance and strong enforcement actions.
  • There are also employers who make health and safety a priority. For these business owners, safety is at the center of what they do. They are models of how to operate well and how take care of employees when it comes to health and safety.
  • And there are employers who 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.

If each company in these three groups would fully embrace safety and health as part of their business models and made it a core value, then workers everywhere would be protected from physical hazards. They would go to work each day knowing that every protection and control measure is in place to ensure that they go home to their families and friends at the end of their shifts.

To get there, we know that the voices of workers must be heard. 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. When workers are heard on the topic of safety and health then safety and health will be a priority to employers.

One of the things we are listening to workers, employers, and other stakeholders about is heat and the hazards associated with it.

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.

And 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.

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.

Last month 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.

Last week we hosted 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. More than 1,700 people from all industries attended this virtual event and many provided comments that will be useful to us as we move forward with our efforts to protect workers from heat hazards.

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 understand that our work on heat is not just important, it is urgent. We know we have to act now to protect workers. We are glad for the momentum that we are generating in this effort.

Another health hazard that has been both important and urgent for more than two years now is COVID-19.

In January this year, OSHA withdrew that ETS in order to focus our resources on finalizing a permanent healthcare standard. We did this in light of the Supreme Court’s decision staying the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

Even though the Vaccination and Testing ETS is no longer in place, we know that it did provide a valuable and important pathway for employers to follow to keep workers safe as they handle vaccine hesitancy. We know that many workplaces utilize the controls set forth in the rule to better protect their workplace from COVID-19

We continue to enforce the general duty clause and our general standards, including PPE standards and the Respiratory Protection Standard to ensure that employers continue protecting their workers. We will continue to update our guidance based on the latest scientific information available.

We also continue to work on developing a permanent infectious disease standard to ensure that we are all better prepared for any future outbreaks.

One of the most important lessons we’ve all learned throughout this is that we need to be prepared for anything. That is what drives our work on the infectious disease standard and the permanent healthcare standard.

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.

Of course, the central part of any effective Safety and Health Program is the worker and the understanding that safety and health is right that every worker is entitled to. It does not matter what the race, gender, age, citizenship status, or anything else about the worker is. All workers have the right to a safe and healthful work environment. Providing this is a responsibility of all business owners.

Business owners are also responsible for ensuring that workers know 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.

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 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. Any barrier to workers speaking up must be removed.

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. But we know that work as performed is so much more vital to understand. We unlock the potential for operational excellence when we understand this.

Yes, systems are important—even essential. However, we must 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 errors are vital to operational excellence.

Considering human performance really is the essence of making health and safety a core value AND listening to the workers.

We all would do well to remember that safety is not an end unto itself. We work on safety so that workers can go home at the end of their shift to their families, friends, and communities. What we do with safety and health we do in order to protect families and keep them intact, protect loved ones, and protect communities through our work in America’s workplaces.

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 in how we do our jobs, but the stories of the people inspire us to do our jobs.

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.

I understand that 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 and are, obviously, a serious risk to health and safety.

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 terrible 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.

We recently marked Worker Memorial Day on April 28. 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.

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.

Everyone values health and safety for themselves and their families. We all want to know that we are safe when we go to work. Also, workers spouses, children, parents, and friends should be confident that their loved ones are safe while at work.

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.