OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
News Release USDL: 96-388
Monday, September 16, 1996
Contact: Stephen Gaskill (202) 219-6091
Lorette Dempsey (404) 347-4495
OSHA Head Says Programs Of "New OSHA" Are Successful Ways To Improve Worker Safety And Health
Addresses 12th Annual Voluntary Protection Participants Association Conference
Programs undertaken by the "New OSHA" (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) demonstrate that business, labor, and government can achieve common ground to successfully improve worker safety and health in America, according to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear.
Dear will be a principal speaker Tuesday before the 12th Annual National VPPPA (Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association) Conference at the Hilton in Walt Disney Village in Orlando, Fla. More than 1,400 business, labor and government professionals -- in addition to hourly workers and plant managers -- are attending the conference.
Last year President Clinton, Vice President Gore, and Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich developed a three-pronged strategy for a new OSHA. The three foundations are:
Give employers a choice -- between partnership with OSHA and workers to provide improved workplace safety and health, or traditional enforcement.
Use common sense regulations and enforcement: Identify clear priorities, focus on key rules, eliminate or reform out-of-date and confusing standards, and work with businesses and employees to develop new and revised rules.
Focus on results - not red tape.
The New OSHA has been successful in carrying out this strategy, Dear will tell the conference.
For example, programs to give employers a choice of partnership with OSHA and workers to improve safety and health are now underway throughout the nation. "We'll have such programs in 27 states by the end of this month," according to Dear.
"If the national results are anything like what we've had in Wisconsin, we've got a very big success on our hands," Dear will tell the conference. In Wisconsin OSHA offered such a choice to the 200 manufacturing companies with 100 or more employees and the highest injury and illness rates based on workers' compensation data. Eighty percent of the original Wisconsin companies participating in the program reduced their injury and illness rates in the first year. The average drop for all 200 companies was about 30 percent. One hundred companies improved their performance so much they fell off the list entirely.
OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs, which recognize excellence in workplace safety and management, have been more than doubled in numbers in the last three years. Injury rates at VPP companies are 45 percent below their injury averages. Those numbers translate into more profitable, competitive businesses, and include those attending the conference.
OSHA also is successfully using collaboration to develop its priorities for targeting serious safety and health hazards and in developing rules.
The agency used a Priority Planning Process to establish its list of priorities. "Instead of being petitioned by interest groups or directed by Congress, as happened all too often in the past, we used Federal Register notices and public meetings and asked businesses, workers and others what our priorities should be," according to Dear. "More than 125 safety and health hazards were brought to our attention. Each was evaluated, and in December we announced OSHA's 18 national priorities."
Other initiatives of the New OSHA include:
Using negotiated, or consensus, rulemaking involving labor, management and government to develop a proposal for a safety standard for workers engaged in steel erection.
A new program for handling worker health and safety complaints that will dramatically reduce the time needed to handle those complaints and cut unnecessary inspections. Many of the complaints now will be handled by phone and faxes.
Focused inspections in the construction industry that target the leading causes of death.
One of the highest priorities for OSHA in the coming months will be a national safety and health program standard, calling on employers to establish programs in the workplace that would identify and abate hazards and involve workers in those efforts.
"Safety and health programs have been proven to be effective in abating existing on-the-job hazards and preventing new ones," Dear will report. "Tens of thousands of companies have already implemented such programs, cutting injuries and illnesses, and cutting costs. In Oregon and Washington, a study found that for every dollar spent on such a program, most employers save between four and six dollars."
Dear will stress that although partnership works, it must be in tandem with "common-sense, but credible enforcement. Serious violators will face consequences. Reinvention does not mean putting on kid gloves. We've upped the ante for those employers who fail to care for their workers' safety and health."
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