• Information Date
  • Presented To
    American Industrial Hygiene Association Expo
  • Speaker(s)
    Jim Frederick


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

American Industrial Hygiene Association Expo
May 25, 2022
Nashville, Tennessee

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

In my years of working in safety and health, I have learned to recognize a couple of things:

  • The important contribution to health and safety that workers provide
  • The value of collaborating with all stakeholders to reach the best end

These are the reasons that makes the work of workplace health and safety professionals so important. All of us coming together to collaborate and learn from each other helps us all get to the best end.

OSHA has a shared vision that is guiding us as we move forward. It is for health and safety established as a core value in every workplace in America and for all workers to have a voice in their safety and health.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives. It been challenging for workers, their families, and our communities. These impacts have been felt in every industry and workplace.

OSHA's Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard served as a valuable blueprint for how employers can implement procedures to keep workers safe, handle vaccine hesitancy, and provide necessary flexibilities.

With the Supreme Court's decision in January staying that ETS, OSHA continues to enforce the general duty and our general standards to ensure that employers continue to protect workers.

The pandemic has shown us all that we have to be ready for anything. That is why we are working on a permanent healthcare standard and an infectious disease standard to better prepare employers and protect workers.

We are also working to protect workers from the dangers of heat. 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 month Vice President Harris and Secretary Walsh announced OSHA's first National Emphasis Program on heat. The NEP targets more than 70 high-risk industries in indoor and outdoor work settings.

Earlier this month we hosted an online 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. Almost 3,000 people from across the country and many different industries attended this event.

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. Something Nashville has a head start on with all of the construction work going on here.

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.

Of course, much of what we do at OSHA depends on the workforce and talent in the safety and health professions and it is exciting to see a workforce pipeline that is full of talented and passionate people.

DOL worker protection agencies have lost about 14 percent of their staff over the last few years. This limited the Department's ability to perform inspections and conduct investigations.

OSHA is in the process of resetting that capacity now.

  • Rebuilding rulemaking and enforcement capacity
  • Expanding whistleblower protection program
  • Increasing outreach and compliance assistance

These investments support OSHA's efforts to double the number of inspectors by the end of 2024.

We want to ensure that OSHA is the national leader in workplace safety and health. That begins by expanding our workforce both in OSHA and other health and safety professions to be as diverse as the people we serve.

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.

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. 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.

As health and safety professionals, we must remember that safety is more than rules, standards, policy, programs, and enforcement. Yes, all of those things are part of it. But those are the tools we use. Health and safety is really a people business.

The term 'industrial hygiene' has been defined as "that science and art devoted to the anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and control of those environmental factors or stresses arising in or from the workplace, which may cause sickness, impaired health and well-being, or significant discomfort among workers or among the citizens of the community."

Benjamin Franklin could well have been talking about industrial hygiene and the work you all do when he wrote "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Clearly, there is a lot of prevention work to be done for all of us. 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.

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!

We all must continue our work of protecting workers and keeping their families and communities intact. Every worker should expect to be able to retire and be able to play with their grandkids, enjoy time with their friends and families, and be physically able to do whatever activities they want to do. This is why we are here.

Thank you for inviting me today.