OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
April 25, 2003
Contact: Layne Lathram
Phone: (202) 693-1999
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
On Worker Memorial Day 2003
(WASHINGTON) -- April 28 is Worker Memorial Day. On this day we pause to recognize and remember those workers who lost their lives making a living, supporting their families and contributing to their communities. They worked in a whole host of jobs and spoke a multitude of languages. But they had one thing in common. One day they went to work and never came home. It is in their memory that we strive to keep improving the safety and health of America's workforce.
In fact, our workplaces are safer and more healthful than ever before. Over the past 30 years worker fatalities have been cut by more than 60 percent, and injury and illness rates have declined by over 40 percent. More and more employers, trade associations, labor unions, workers, and safety and health professionals are committed to reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job. We applaud their efforts. The progress is good, but we must do more.
Every day 16 workers die in this country, and many more become injured or seriously ill. We must challenge those who are not doing their part to step up to the plate. And we must challenge those who are doing well to do even better. Everyone must make a contribution if we are to drive down injuries, illnesses and fatalities even further.
Safety and health add value to businesses, workplaces and people's lives. OSHA is working hard on several fronts to accomplish its mission of improving job safety and health. Our priorities are strong, fair and effective enforcement; expanded outreach, education and compliance assistance; and increased partnerships and voluntary programs.
Our efforts also involve attention to new and emerging issues in order to improve our effectiveness in reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the workplace. These include:
- Hispanic Outreach - OSHA is continuing its focus on reaching Spanish-speaking workers, who continue to suffer disproportionately higher fatality rates than others in this country. Today the agency is launching a national campaign with the release of two public service announcements to over 650 Spanish radio stations across the country. One spot is meant for employees and their families; the other targets employers. In coming months OSHA will follow up with additional Spanish language outreach through the Hispanic Radio Network.
- Toxic Exposure and Illness - The long term health effects of exposure to chemicals and other toxins can take years and even decades to determine. OSHA recognizes the heavy toll of occupational illness and is taking a number of steps to improve worker health in America. One is a respiratory disease study being undertaken in cooperation with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to improve outreach, compliance assistance and enforcement efforts relating to specific contaminants and industries. The agency is also working on a health targeting system, similar to one used to guide enforcement efforts in general industry.
- Enhanced Enforcement - Last month the agency announced its Enhanced Enforcement Program to target employers who have a history of the most severe safety and health violations. The new approach is helping OSHA focus on employers who willfully and repeatedly expose their workers to the most serious hazards, refuse to correct violations and violate their safety and health agreements. The concentration on high gravity violators strengthens the agency's enforcement program and enhanced focus on corporate-wide offenders.
- Construction Partnerships - Despite the best efforts of many in industry, labor and government, fatality rates in the construction industry have remained stubbornly high. A new focus on construction partnerships is beginning to show dramatic results. In Idaho, Ohio and Wisconsin, partnerships are significantly bringing down injury and illness rates on a number of construction sites, including the Lambeau Field remodeling project in Green Bay. In St. Louis contractors and unions joined with OSHA in a program recognizing construction sites that enjoyed zero fatalities.
- Emergency Preparedness - With the threat of terrorist events of grave concern, OSHA is working with other government agencies to prepare for a national response in the event of a crisis or attack. This week the agency released an Evacuation Planning Matrix to help employers plan for emergency response. The on-line resource provides tools to help employers assess risk and develop evacuation plans to protect their workers. It is modeled on the Anthrax Matrix that OSHA developed last year.
U.S. Labor Department news releases are accessible on the Internet at www.dol.gov. The information in this release will be made available in alternative format upon request (large print, Braille, audio tape or disc) from the COAST office. Please specify which news release when placing your request. Call 202-693-7773 or TTY 202-693-7755.
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