Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||02/12/2007|
| Presented To:||American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL)|
| Speaker:||Edwin G. Foulke Jr.|
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
American Council of Independent Laboratories (ACIL)
12 pm Monday, February 12, 2007
Thank-you for that warm introduction. I am pleased to be here today.
I also want to thank you, the members of ACIL, for your continued support of our Alliance and all that we are working together to achieve on behalf of industry and particularly small businesses.
OSHA - ACIL ALLIANCE ACHIEVEMENTS
Since 2003, our Alliance has made significant strides in increasing awareness of OSHA's Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program and related requirements for approval of products by NRTL Program members. More than anyone, you know the value of this accreditation program and the value of product certification to small businesses, to general industry, and to the safety and health of America's working men and women.
We cannot know the many lives we are saving every day through our Alliance and through the efforts of your member firms and laboratories, but I have no doubt that we are making a significant and lasting difference - and that is something to cheer about!
By sharing our experience and expertise, ACIL and OSHA are reaching out to businesses to inform the public about OSHA's requirements for using products approved by our Agency's NRTL Program members.
At the same time, our Alliance provides OSHA with insight into workplace safety and health issues that the commercial scientific and engineering industries are addressing.
Through our Alliance, ACIL members have made themselves available to help OSHA inform our staff and employers about the need for product certification in the workplace. These efforts support OSHA's mission and strengthen industry in the United States. Working together, everybody wins.
ACIL representatives reviewed and provided information for three OSHA Technical Institute training courses - one in electrical safety and two for hazardous materials.
I am grateful for the great job ACIL has done to promote the activities of our Alliance through the association's website and in several articles published in ACIL's newsletter. This is information-sharing at its most fundamental level, but regular communication between ACIL members and OSHA helps each of us to understand and help each other.
Our exchanges at forums, conferences and round table discussions throughout our Alliance has also served to help us communicate while working together on behalf of the industries that we are trying to reach.
The past June, for example, ACIL staffed an exhibit booth at the Department of Labor Safety Day to distribute safety information and answer questions from DOL employees about electrical safety and the NRTL Program. It was encouraging to see ACIL representatives answering questions from DOL employees and promoting the Alliance's goals, and I am looking forward to welcoming you back at this successful event again this coming June.
I am particularly pleased to see the pocket card which was developed during the last year through our Alliance. This card shows the official certification marks of testing laboratories recognized by OSHA's NRTL Program, and provides information on OSHA's and ACIL's online resources. We have distributed more than 2,500 cards to OSHA's national, regional, and area offices, to On-site Consultation Program staff, and to State Plan States. This will help them do their jobs, and the initial response to the cards has been excellent.
It has been a productive three and a half years, and I have high expectations for our continued progress.
In the coming weeks and months, our Alliance has plans for still more activities for improving small business and general industry workplace safety.
The OSHA and ACIL Alliance team is working to develop a seminar to provide OSHA staff with in-depth information about the NRTL Program, including how to recognize NRTL-approved certification marks equipment and the impact of counterfeit certification marks in the workplace. To accompany this seminar, our Alliance is developing a white paper and a tip sheet about counterfeit marks. This seminar and these documents will help advance the Alliance's goal of increasing the public's awareness of the importance of certification marks.
I recognize that being able to identify counterfeit marks on equipment is important to its manufacturers and users. Not only will it help avoid tragedies in the workplace; it can also save businesses thousands of dollars.
To help, the Alliance also plans to develop a slide presentation with examples of counterfeit products and information on where counterfeiters are located. The presentation will be used in the training seminars for OSHA staff.
KEEPING EMPLOYEES SAFE
I am a firm believer in OSHA's cooperative programs, which are designed to help businesses meet their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Our cooperative programs are especially effective for small businesses.
Businesses that ask OSHA for help can look forward to cooperative assistance with mutually beneficial outcomes. We see proof of these benefits in the superior performance of companies and organizations operating under our Strategic Partnerships, our Voluntary Protection Programs, and our Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP).
For example, VPP companies - worksites where comprehensive safety and health programs have been incorporated successfully into their management systems - achieve average injury rates 50 percent lower than other companies in their industry.
In addition, participants in our Alliance Program are working with us to prevent injuries and illnesses, develop best practices, and demonstrate the business case for safety and health.
While many believe these programs cost a lot of time and money, our message is that they actually save time and money. This is hard to deny when you consider this fact: Workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities cost America more than $170 billion every year.
It is also a proven fact that when employees operate under a comprehensive safety and health program, 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.
Most importantly, however, a sound safety and health program will save lives. So while a business weighs the costs of implementing a health and safety management system in their workplace, the cost of their employees' lives should weigh the heaviest. In any workplace, one fatality is one too many.
WE MUST DO MORE
Many of you here today have already answered the call to provide your employees with a safe working environment - and for that I am thankful.
Please continue to share with others the value of a safe and healthy workplace, and please assist others in developing an effective health and safety plan.
Since its inception in 1971, OSHA has seen workplace-related fatalities reduce by 60 percent, and workplace-related illnesses reduce by 40 percent.
Despite this progress, we must do more.
Through our efforts, we can work toward giving something important to employees in the science and engineering communities' and employees using products certified for safety - the secure feeling that they can look forward to returning home safe and healthy at the end of every day.
OSHA wants very much to help you raise the awareness of safety and health hazards within your industries, because this helps them stay safe and productive.
With every employer and organization I meet, I emphasize this message: OSHA is here to help employers and employees. They can start today by visiting OSHA's web site: www.osha.gov.
Our web pages abound with information and guidance documents to show how to keep everyone safe and healthy. For example, we have many Safety and Health Topics pages devoted to specific industry concerns, such as laboratory safety.
Simply put: OSHA's advice is free and it can help employers develop a comprehensive safety and health management system. The more people learn about what OSHA can offer, the more they realize how "OSHA adds value... to business, work and life."
I thank each of you for your hard work and many contributions to this Alliance. I look forward to continuing to work with you.
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