Presented ToThe Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education House Appropriations Committee
Speaker(s)Henshaw, John L.
STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD
JOHN L. HENSHAW
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH, AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
FEBRUARY 14, 2002
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee.
I am pleased to appear today to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2003 budget request for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I welcome this opportunity to also present and discuss some of the Agency's recent work and some of my goals for protecting workers' safety and health while maintaining fiscal responsibility.
The world has changed since my confirmation in early August. The President sent a sound and responsible wartime budget to Congress ten days ago with a top priority of protecting the security of our nation and its citizens. OSHA is playing an important role in homeland security by protecting the safety and health of America's workforce. I am pleased to appear before you today to say that this budget will help us fulfill our homeland security responsibilities and our overall mission of assuring the safety and health of working men and women of this country.
OSHA has successfully addressed some significant challenges in the past six months. Just 38 days after my confirmation, our country witnessed terrorist acts that were committed as thousands of men and women began what appeared to be a typical workday. OSHA's own Manhattan Area Office workers had started their day in 7 World Trade Center when the attacks began. Though our Manhattan area office was destroyed, we were fortunate that all of our staff escaped injury.
Since September 11, our staff has worked diligently, and often around the clock, to ensure the safety and health of workers at the World Trade Center site. We have done this by providing compliance assistance and consultation through personal air monitoring, distributing and fit-checking thousands of respirators, and conducting safety monitoring. The Agency has also formed two partnerships in recent months -- one with contractors, employees, employee representatives and government agencies to protect workers at the World Trade Center site and a second partnership to protect the safety and health of workers at the Staten Island recovery operation.
As Members of Congress and staffs are acutely aware, Anthrax was a second terrorist act that affected workplaces and workers late last year. The Agency's staff have spent countless hours working with the Office of Homeland Security, the United States Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government agencies on responding to the presence of Anthrax in the workplace, decontamination, and protecting against all forms of future bioterrorism. We have learned a lot about Anthrax and other forms of bioterrorism and how better to protect ourselves. The Agency's staff has gained valuable lessons that can be used in the future. We will soon be applying these lessons to expanded outreach to employers and employees. In mid-November, OSHA issued a matrix and placed it on our Web site to help employers assess risk to their workers, provide appropriate protective equipment, and specify safe work practices against the threat of Anthrax exposure.
As OSHA has risen to meet our expanded responsibilities for homeland security, the Agency has also worked with employers and employees to improve the safety and health of America's workforce. Our country now has the lowest occupational injury and illness rate on record -- 6.1 cases per 100 workers -- as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This latest drop in the injury and illness rate was the eighth in a row. Injury and illness rates in more dangerous occupations also continued to drop.
Work-related fatalities have also continued a downward trend, with work-related highway deaths dropping for the first time since 1992 and construction fatalities dropping for the first time since 1996. Even so, one fatality is too many, and we will strive to do better through the appropriate mix of enforcing health and safety standards and providing compliance assistance, education and training that is contained in this budget request. We will be giving more attention and resources to overcoming any language barriers and reaching out more effectively to workers who speak little or no English. We will tackle this challenge head-on and work to reduce fatality rates for all workers.
Since my confirmation in August, I have worked with the Secretary to establish four priorities for meeting the Agency's mission of protecting workers' safety and health. This budget request of $437 million for Fiscal Year 2003 reflects these priorities.
First, I intend to build on OSHA's leadership in workplace safety and health as exemplified by our work at the World Trade Center, our response to bioterrorism and decreasing injury and illness rates. The OSH Act is a model for the rest of the world. The Agency will continue to use our full complement of tools to work with employers and employees to drive down injury and illness rates even further. This budget, along with the investments that have been made in the past, will help us meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders in responsive and innovative ways.
Second, we believe in strong, effective and fair enforcement. The Agency plans to conduct 1,300 more inspections in FY 2003 than this year, continuing to target the most dangerous worksites to focus resources for the greatest impact on worker safety and health. Furthermore, we will be working to enhance the skills of our frontline safety and health officers to ensure that they have the skills, training and expertise to do their jobs -- which is critical for truly effective targeting of enforcement resources.
Third, OSHA must expand outreach, education, and compliance assistance efforts. While enforcement is important for the Agency's work, OSHA strives to prevent injuries before they occur. This budget contains an additional $2.75 million above existing funding to improve our outreach efforts, produce educational materials that are easy for our customers to use, and other tools that will help employers provide safe and healthful workplaces. Funding for this priority will allow the Agency to improve our technology-based training, increase the number of consultation visits, provide compliance assistance training for our front-line staff, and develop more computer-based compliance assistance tools. In addition, $4 million is requested for an innovative training grant program. The new program will provide short-term grants to a broader range of nonprofit grantees to train employees and small businesses in selected occupational safety and health topics. One of the key goals for this new grant program will be to develop and pilot test safety and health training materials that will be available on the Internet, allowing a larger audience to benefit from them.
Finally, the Agency must encourage and improve voluntary efforts with partnerships and volunteer programs. Our Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) continue to be an effective way of using voluntary programs to pursue injury and illness reductions. VPP is effective across a broad array of industries -- in businesses of all sizes -- showing the value that good safety and health adds to business. The average VPP site has a lost workday incidence that is 52% below the average incidence for its industry. We estimate a 12% growth in VPP sites in the coming year.
The Agency will continue to form partnerships to leverage our resources and improve our effectiveness. For instance, we have formed a partnership with state and local officials and businesses in Westchester County, New York, to prevent fatalities and injuries during the construction of a new courthouse annex and rehabilitation of the courthouse's tower. We have also entered into partnerships to protect construction workers during the rehabilitation and construction of football stadiums for the National Football League's Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. These partnerships have the potential to produce the same results that we have seen with other partnerships -- such as one with Pinion Management, a Colorado-based manager of seven nursing homes. At Pinion's nursing homes, workers' compensation claims dropped from 115 in 1999 to five early last year, and associated costs dropped from $232,000 to $1,500---99 percent---in the first quarter of last year. These results mean a lot less pain and suffering for workers and their families as well as reduced costs for employers.
The Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) is another voluntary program that encourages higher safety and health performance. We project a 5% growth in SHARP sites in the coming year. We will also be looking at other partnership programs that could provide the needed incentives for advancements in safety and health.
In closing I would like to say that September 11, 2001, placed safety and health of our families, friends, and fellow workers foremost in all our minds. For the first time in OSHA's 30-year history, our country is at war, terrorists have attacked workplaces, and our nation is recovering from a recession.
The challenges to workplace safety and health are unprecedented. OSHA met those challenges in 2001, and our staff will meet the coming year's challenges. Building on our successes, we will be using all the available tools and talent to achieve our mission of assuring to the extent possible that all working men and women have a safe place to work. I came to this job in August with over 25 years of experience in the field of safety and health and a firm belief in OSHA's mission. After experiencing the unpredictable challenges of the past six months, and overseeing the Agency's efforts to meet those challenges, I am more committed than ever to the value and importance of OSHA's mission to our country and its workers.