STATEMENT OF JOHN L. HENSHAW
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
THE SUBCOMITTEE ON LABOR, HEALTH, AND HUMAN SERVICES AND EDUCATION
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
MAY 1, 2003
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to appear today to discuss the President's Fiscal Year 2004 budget request for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). I welcome this opportunity to describe some of the Agency's successes in protecting America's workforce.
I am proud to announce that the overall occupational injury/illness rate in 2001, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the lowest since these data were first collected. The rate, 5.7 per 100 workers, has dropped 48 percent since 1973. I think that everyone involved with occupational safety and health deserves credit for such remarkable improvement, including Federal and State OSHA, employers, employees, and the professional safety and health community. Working together, we have created a much safer and healthier work environment in this Nation.
However, BLS also reports that almost 6,000 workers are dying from on-the-job injuries and illnesses each year. Therefore, OSHA still has lots of work to do. Even one fatality is one too many. We particularly need to focus our efforts on reducing deaths in the construction sector and fatalities among Hispanic workers, which increased by 9 percent between 2000 and 2001.
To assure that workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities continue to decline and to meet our challenges, OSHA is requesting $450 million and 2,236 FTE in Fiscal Year 2004. This budget supports the wide range of OSHA activities and strikes a balance among compliance assistance, enforcement, and standards development and guidance.
OSHA's proposed budget contains a number of new initiatives to achieve OSHA's mission. We are requesting an increase of $5.3 million for outreach and assistance, which includes $2.3 million for targeting outreach to non-English-speaking and hard-to-reach workers and $1.5 million for assistance to small businesses. This increase will also fund the expansion of OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) and other program enhancements to assist the public. For example, OSHA is seeking $750,000 for improved health targeting where respiratory disease agents are present and a similar amount for increased efforts to support emergency preparedness and response activities in America's workplaces. The budget also includes $1 million for the evaluation of OSHA's programs and $1 million for an independent evaluation of the use and effectiveness of defibrillators in the workplace. Consistent with the findings in the Administration's PART (Program Assessment Rating Tool) review, OSHA will utilize data from its own Integrated Management Information System, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other sources in implementing more meaningful performance measures. Moreover, the agency will develop a plan to evaluate the results and cost effectiveness of its regulatory and non-regulatory programs.
To offset the increases in the Agency's budget proposal, the Agency is requesting reduced funding for information technology and expenses associated with technical equipment and supplies and construction data. These reductions represent completed projects and cost efficiencies and will not have an impact on the Agency's effectiveness.
OSHA's specific priorities for FY 2004 include:
Fair And Effective Enforcement
OSHA continues to maintain a strong enforcement program. In FY 2002, Federal OSHA conducted 37,493 inspections, the most since FY 1994. This year, we intend to conduct 37,700 inspections. Although this budget requests 31 fewer FTEs in the enforcement area, the Agency expects to maintain the current inspection levels in FY 2004. The reductions in staffing will not affect the number of field compliance officers, but will come from decreases in administrative and overhead positions. Even with the decrease, OSHA anticipates improved productivity because the more recently hired enforcement staff are now fully trained and area office operations are more streamlined.
We believe we are also doing a better job of targeting our inspections. To more accurately focus enforcement resources, the Agency sends letters to 14,000 establishments with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses, informing them that they will be subject to possible enforcement actions and encouraging them to avail themselves of consultation services to correct workplace hazards prior to an OSHA visit. Our data indicate that we are doing a better job of targeting our inspections to the workplaces we should inspect. For example, in 2002, 73% of OSHA citations were classified as serious, willful, or repeat -- the highest rate ever -- and only 8% of OSHA's inspections were contested last year, the lowest rate in the last 10 years. At the same time, the average penalty for serious violations was one of the highest ever.
I also recently announced a new policy to focus more attention on employers who consistently expose their workers to serious and repeated hazards that result in injuries. OSHA will use a combination of follow-up visits, programmed inspections, public awareness, settlements, and Federal court enforcement to address these types of workplaces. We will also inform corporate headquarters with multiple worksites of any high gravity citations to ensure that any necessary corrective actions can be implemented at all their worksites. A proposed budget increase of $750,000 for federal enforcement will allow the Agency to improve its health targeting program, to better focus on where workplace exposures are the highest.
Value-Added Partnerships with Employers and Employees
One of OSHA's top priorities is to increase the number of alliances, partnerships, and Voluntary Protection Programs sites. These cooperative programs allow OSHA to reach many more workplaces than can be visited by inspections alone.
In the past year, OSHA has established more than 50 partnerships. Nearly 250,000 workers are covered by such agreements and the partnerships are producing results -- reduced fatalities, lower injury and illness rates -- as well as a more positive, constructive relationship between government and industry. For example, in Cleveland, a partnership with the Construction Employers Association resulted in a 32% reduction in injury rates over the last three years. In Cincinnati, after a two-year partnership with 24 construction companies, 16 remain injury-free. In Appleton, Wisconsin, all the contractors working on the Green Bay Packers Lambeau Field remodeling project have at least one employee onsite with 30 hours of OSHA-related training.
We have also continued to expand the VPP program. In 2001, the member organizations had injury/illness rates 54% less than those of other employers in their industries. Some of the participants serve as role models for small companies that need help in qualifying for the program. VPP is another way of multiplying OSHA effects beyond what our staff could accomplish alone. There are now 715 Federal and 208 State sites in this very effective program. A proposed increase of $700,000 for the VPP will allow the Agency to initiate a new program, Jumpstart, which will help prepare companies that cannot currently meet the high VPP eligibility standards for future enrollment in the program.
Outreach, Education and Compliance Assistance
OSHA is doing a better job of providing outreach and information after a new regulation is issued. For example, before the new steel-erection standard went into effect, compliance officers were properly trained to enforce the rule and employers and employees became familiar with provisions of the regulation. Training was developed and taught by representatives from OSHA, construction employers, and unions. OSHA placed an "e-Tool" on its website that instructs employers and workers on how to comply with the standard. Before issuing a directive to staff on how to enforce the rule, OSHA, for the first time, posted a draft version on its website and solicited comments from the public. More than 400 suggestions were received and analyzed, and the final directive incorporates a number of the good ideas we received from the public.
To further aid small businesses, OSHA recently restructured its operations at the national level to bring all our services provided to small employers under one Directorate. The restructuring also added an Office of Small Business Assistance, which will provide one point-of-contact and give small employers information about OSHA programs. The Agency's budget request seeks an additional $1.5 million to expand outreach to the critical small-business segment of our economy, which employs a majority of the Nation's workforce.
OSHA also funds a consultation program to help small businesses address safety and health problems. This program is separate from the OSHA enforcement program and is available in all 50 states. Last year, these state consultation programs conducted more than 27,000 visits. We expect to conduct about the same number during Fiscal Year 2003 and 32,500 in Fiscal Year 2004.
OSHA is also expanding its efforts to address employees in to hard-to-reach sectors of the workforce, including young workers, as well as Hispanic and other non-English-speaking workers. The Agency seeks a $2.3 million increase for this effort, which will allow the Agency to address the rise in workplace fatalities among Hispanic and other non-English-speaking workers. The funds will also be used to improve operations of the Agency's toll-free number, which offers assistance in English and Spanish. It will also allow expansion of the current Web page for Spanish speakers and will provide funding to create a Spanish version of many of the Agency's information publications. A Spanish version of "All About OSHA," the pamphlet that describes the Agency's responsibilities and workers' rights, already exists. The increased funding will also allow OSHA to expand its outreach and compliance assistance activities to young and inexperienced workers and to other hard-to-reach populations, such as the transient and part-time workforce.
The Agency is also actively recruiting Spanish-speaking employees to work as compliance officers and compliance-assistance specialists. There are currently 180 Spanish-speaking employees in Federal and State OSHA programs. OSHA has also formed alliances with the Hispanic Contractors of America and the Mexican-American Commission of Nebraska. The increased funding will allow for expansion to other Hispanic organizations to provide training and educational materials.
In April 2002, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced a comprehensive approach designed to reduce and prevent ergonomic injuries in the workplace. OSHA developed a four-pronged ergonomics approach to meet that commitment through a combination of industry-specific and task-specific guidelines, outreach, enforcement, and research.
OSHA has issued ergonomics guidelines for the nursing home industry, the first in a series of industry-specific guidelines for preventing musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. These industry-specific guidelines feature practical recommendations to employers based on methods used successfully by nursing homes. Guidelines for retail-grocery stores and the poultry industry will soon be available for public comment, and will be followed by guidelines for the shipbuilding industry.
OSHA has also signed 13 national ergonomics alliances. OSHA is working with these alliance partners on a variety of best-practice products. For example, OSHA formed an alliance with the International Air Transport section of the National Safety Council and 13 airlines on the ergonomics of handling checked baggage. The alliance participants have agreed to share best practices and technical knowledge of baggage handling, and plan to develop a biomechanics-training module for workers performing this task.
The Agency recently partnered with the United States Postal Service and unions representing postal workers to promote the early identification of musculoskeletal disorders and to control ergonomic risk factors for postal employees. The process will be tested initially at 10 sites, with a goal to expand to 30 facilities during calendar year 2003.
OSHA has also initiated a number of enforcement efforts to reduce ergonomic hazards. To ensure the effectiveness of these ergonomic enforcement efforts, OSHA has provided intensive training to both its own personnel and attorneys in the Office of the Solicitor on how to handle these cases. OSHA also has conducted extensive outreach to targeted industries to encourage employers to address ergonomic hazards even before they are inspected.
During inspections, OSHA assesses ergonomic conditions, and evaluates ergonomic hazards for possible citation under the OSH Act's general duty clause. Many of these inspections are part of OSHA's National Emphasis Program (NEP) for nursing homes, or its 17 regional and local emphasis programs targeted at ergonomic hazards in other high-hazard industries. The Agency has begun 469 inspections under the nursing homes NEP and plans 1,000 inspections in FY 2003 . In addition, OSHA has initiated approximately 156 ergonomics inspections in other industries. Although most of the inspections have not yet been completed, OSHA recently issued ergonomics-related general duty clause citations to three nursing homes and one manufacturing facility. Each of the cases was settled, with the employers agreeing to implement a program to reduce the ergonomic hazards noted by OSHA. The NEP and ergonomics inspections also have resulted in a number of citations for violations of other OSHA regulations.
In other cases, where OSHA is concerned about ergonomic conditions but believes that a citation is not appropriate, it may send the employer an ergonomic hazard alert letter. The letters suggest ways the employers can reduce ergonomic hazards, and indicate that OSHA may conduct a follow-up inspection to assess the extent to which the employer has taken such action. Inspections have thus far resulted in issuance of 88 hazard-alert letters.
Also as part of the four-pronged approach announced in April 2002, OSHA established a 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics (NACE), with representatives from industry, academia, labor, and the legal and medical professions. The first NACE meeting was held in January 2003 and a second meeting is scheduled for May 6-7, 2003.
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As OSHA carries out its statutory responsibilities, my goal is to drive home the message to employers and employees that safety and health add value to every business, to every workplace, and to every life. Besides the direct benefits, such as greater productivity, lower workers' compensation premiums, and reduced medical expenditures, good safety and health practices have indirect benefits in the workplace, such as higher morale, better labor-management relations and reduced turnover, in addition to the obvious benefit of fewer workplace injuries and illnesses. I'd be pleased to answer any questions the Subcommittee may have.