• Information Date
  • Presented To
    HR Florida State Council
  • Speaker(s)
    Edwin G. Foulke Jr.
  • Status
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Remarks Prepared for delivery by

Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.

Assistant Secretary of Labor
HR Florida State Council
Orlando, Florida
Friday, October 5, 2007


I want to thank the HR Florida State Council for the kind invitation for me to speak with you today on a subject that is important to all of us: protecting human resources in the workplace.

I have brought with me today hard, irrefutable evidence that protecting employees is good for business.

OSHA was created in 1971 to play a vital role ensuring the safety and health of America's working men and women. Our worksite is all of America - 7 million-plus offices, factories, shipyards, hotels, hospitals, concert halls, and construction sites - and this is roughly double the number of worksites 36 years ago.

In the time OSHA has been on the job, our nation has seen work-related fatalities decrease by 60 percent and injuries and illnesses go down 40 percent. This is good news. We are making progress in saving lives every day. Still, there is more work to be done, because even one injury on the job is still one too many.

Let us take a snapshot look at the situation in Florida:
  • In the last fiscal year, OSHA conducted 2,504 inspections of worksites in Florida and issued 5,747 citations for violations of S&H standards.
  • 81 percent of FY07 Florida citations were categorized as "serious."
  • 76 percent of the FY07 inspections in Florida were in construction.
  • OSHA conducted 110 fatality investigations.
  • Average penalty per investigation: $1,120
  • 4 significant cases (over $100,000) in Florida in FY07
    • 3 in the Construction Industry and 1 in the Maritime
    • 3 Accident Inspections (5 Fatalities) and 1 Programmed Inspection
Now, let us consider OSHA's role - which has three parts:

First: We work with science and engineering experts, with input from industry, to develop standards for safety and health in the workplace.

Second: Because employers are legally responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for employees, OSHA enforces these standards - firmly and fairly.

Third: Recognizing that most employers want to comply with the law, OSHA has designed many tools and services to help businesses succeed.

I want to emphasize that while preventing employee injuries, illnesses and fatalities is every business owner's legal responsibility and, I believe, a moral obligation, safety and health also makes good business sense.

Every year, workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities cost our nation more than $170 billion. These costs affect every man, woman and child in the United States - every employee, every employer and every family member.

For employers, the financial toll of illnesses, injuries and fatalities on the job is enormous. Small and medium-sized businesses are especially vulnerable to the impact of workplace hazards -

First, because the resulting costs hit the slim budgets of small businesses very hard; and second, owners of small businesses often work side-by-side with their family members and other employees - making a worksite tragedy immediate and deeply personal.

For employees, on the job hazards can have a terrible impact. According to a study in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, a single workplace illness or injury costs an employee and his or her family on average $8,000 - out of pocket - often forcing them to dip into savings or default on payments.

As a result, these employees are much more likely to lose their homes, their cars, and their health insurance. Taking steps to keep employees safe reduces this spiral of debt - and, of course, prevents a lot of suffering, strain and stress on thousands of lives.

To give you only one example of the ripples of trouble employers can encounter by failing to follow established safety standards and safeguard employees, consider what happened at a construction site involving several contractors on July 14, 1999, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

On that date, an OSHA inspector was responding to calls from employees who were concerned about working in high winds. "Big Blue," one of the largest cranes in the world, was being used to construct a baseball stadium, Miller Park. As the inspector documented the activity with a camera, "Big Blue" was lifting a section of the stadium roof, weighing over 450 tons.

Suddenly, the crane collapsed.

Three employees at Miller Park died. The employees' widows reportedly received $60 million in an out-of-court settlement, but no amount of money can ever compensate for the loss these families experienced. The collapse, the investigation, the cleanup and the project slowdown delayed the opening of Miller Park by a full year. During that time, news reports carried the initial story as well as the details of the investigation, court cases, and penalties - which hardly helped the reputation of the builders.The collapse caused $100 million in property damage. OSHA fined three subcontractors more than a half a million dollars in willful and serious violations. When the ballpark finally opened, the team owners received $20.5 million in compensation for loss of income.

No responsible business owner or citizen wants a disaster like this. The immediate and long-term damage is heartbreaking, disruptive and expensive.

Now, compare this tragedy with another stadium construction project...

Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, was built on time with a safety record far above industry averages. Reduced workers' compensation and reduced general liability costs ? due to a low injury and illness rate ? resulted in savings of $4.6 million!

What made the difference in these two stadiums, built at almost the same time in two different cities?

Paul Brown Stadium had a comprehensive safety and health management system developed jointly by OSHA's regional office, the local county, and the major contractors on the project. Among its features, the program provided budget resources for training, drug testing, and on-site medical facilities.

OSHA's data and 36 years of experience show that businesses that implement effective safety and health management systems can expect to see their injury and illness rates substantially reduced, with significant insurance savings that can be better invested in the business' future.

We see proof of these benefits in the superior performance of companies and organizations operating under OSHA's Cooperative Programs - including our Alliances, Strategic Partnerships, On-Site Consultation, and Voluntary Protection Programs. For example, VPP worksites operating under a comprehensive safety and health management system generally find their injury rates are half their industry average.

Businesses see almost immediate results when they take advantage of OSHA's On-site Consultation Program. The program, specifically designed for small businesses, has delivered free safety and health assistance to half a million employers for more than three decades.

Working safely through OSHA pays off for the smallest companies.

Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado, has 27 employees. A few years ago the company worked with OSHA's on-site consultants at Colorado State University. After seeing the benefits of working with OSHA, Odell applied and was accepted into our Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, what we call "SHARP." As a SHARP participant, Odell earned an exemption from programmed OSHA inspections while working with our consultants. Odell's lost time rate used to be three times higher than the national average for its industry. Today, as a result of working with OSHA's free On-site Consultation Program, Odell's rate and the number of illnesses and injuries is...zero!

Here is one more example:

Milliken and Company, a major textile and chemical manufacturer, has attributed many positive outcomes to its participation in VPP. Every one of its worksites across the United States, averaging around 300 employees, has achieved VPP status. With leadership from the top of the company and active participation by everyone to reduce injuries on the job, M&C has realized a 68 percent reduction in its total case incidence rate. With this reduction, its workers' compensation costs have fallen more than 55 percent!

What these companies and thousands of others have discovered is that a safe and healthful workplace improves productivity. Although this seems to go against conventional thinking, the most successful businesses understand how focusing on making processes safe also improves their efficiency.

It all starts when a company resolves to do better. This is the first key step: A change in attitude.

Owners of successful companies understand that when employees operate under a comprehensive safety and health management system, incidents of injury and illness go down, insurance costs go down, and workers' compensation payments go down. At the same time, employee morale goes up, productivity goes up, competitiveness goes up, and profits go up.

In the best-selling book, "The World Is Flat," Thomas Friedman analyzes recent economic and technological changes that are eliminating traditional barriers between nations. According to Friedman, these forces of change are causing people around the globe to be more interrelated than ever in the history of our planet. In this new, flatter world, American businesses need every competitive advantage - and good workplace safety and health can give companies a tremendous, competitive advantage.

Here is why: Companies that make workplace safety and health a cornerstone of their business operations boost the economy in the communities where they operate. When employees feel safe, healthy and confident while working for strong, competitive companies, they buy homes, cars and thousands of other local goods and services. Thriving local communities, in turn, stimulate and strengthen regional economies and, inevitably, our nation's economy. Everything is interrelated.

OSHA has the resources to help businesses stay strong and competitive while protecting employees. Come to us; let OSHA help, because protecting employees leads to protecting jobs, and protecting jobs in America keeps our nation vital, safe and strong.

We all know that small and medium-sized businesses are the bedrock of the American economy and the engine for much of our nation's growth and innovation. In fact, small businesses create two out of every three new jobs and account for nearly half of America's overall employment This is why OSHA has increased its compliance assistance materials and services to help small businesses succeed.

You can start - today - by visiting OSHA's website at www.OSHA.gov. The website offers free fact sheets, guidance documents, pocket guides, posters, and hundreds of other pages of information that show you how to keep employees healthy and safe on the job.

- and please: Do not be afraid to visit our website; OSHA never targets visitors to our website for an inspection!

When you visit our site, you will find more than two dozen titles in OSHA's popular series of laminated QuickCards, available in English, Spanish and other languages. These are free and available in quantities to distribute to all your employees.

At OSHA's website you can sign-up to receive our free twice-monthly QuickTakes e-newsletter. QuickTakes helps you stay in touch with all the latest developments in OSHA products, tools and services.

Our webpage called "Making the Business Case for Safety and Health" describes many case studies and success stories that show the kind of dramatic savings and increased productivity that businesses like yours can experience when you ask OSHA for assistance.

OSHA's website also offers QuickStart, a convenient step-by-step guide to help you identify many of the major OSHA requirements and guidance materials that may apply to your workplace. Small and new businesses may find QuickStart particularly helpful as an introduction to the compliance assistance resources on OSHA's website.

OSHA's Spanish language website offers a wide array of safety tips and assistance for Spanish-speaking employers and employees. OSHA has a toll-free number with Spanish-speaking operators who can help callers find answers to their workplace safety and health questions.

The OSHA Training Institute in Arlington, Illinois provides excellent workplace safety and health training for employers and employees. In addition, OSHA Education Centers located throughout the United States offer the most frequently requested OSHA Training Institute courses for businesses. Course topics include electrical hazards, machine guarding, and respiratory protection. The training page on OSHA's website shows you how to register for courses.

Another great training resource is OSHA's Outreach Training Program, which is our principal way to train employees in the basics of occupational safety and health. People who complete a one-week OSHA trainer course are authorized to teach 10-hour or 30-hour courses in construction or general industry safety and health standards, and authorized trainers can receive OHSA course completion cards for their students. Over the past four years, more than one million students have received training through this program. Information is on OSHA's website.

One more important source of help is OSHA's Office of Small Business Assistance. Staffed by specialists who focus solely on the needs of small businesses, the office serves as a point of contact and acts as an advocate for small businesses within OSHA itself. This means that someone is working on your behalf from the inside! OSHA has created two primary small business webpages, offering a host of linked information. Go to www.OSHA.gov and click "small business" or "consultation." There you can find links to all our small business resources and publications.

One of our most popular publications is the "OSHA Small Business Handbook." Among its many features, the handbook contains an industry-specific checklist of things you can do to make your business safer and more healthful for your employees

No matter the size of your business, you can find the answers to your questions on workplace safety and health at OSHA. Simply put, OSHA's advice is free because OSHA wants to help businesses succeed.

Explore our website. Download our free publications and share them with your employees.

Go to www.OSHA.gov to find your local consultation office, and ask the staff how they can help your business. If you ask for a free on-site visit, OSHA's compliance assistance specialists will be happy to work with you to develop an effective safety and health management program that can help you keep your employees safe and healthy on the job.

Finally, consider participating in one of OSHA's cooperative programs. These provide tailor-made opportunities for businesses of any size to work with OSHA and other experienced employers to address your workplace safety and health issues. Once again, your local OSHA office can show you how!

Remember: Workplace safety and health is not only an employer's legal responsibility; it also makes good business sense.

Ensuring that your business operates with a safety and health management system - and with OSHA's help - adds value... to business, work and life.