Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||06/08/1994|
| Presented To:||National Maritime Safety Association|
| Speaker:||Dear, Joseph A.|
"This document was published prior to the publication of OSHA's final rule on Ergonomics Program (29 CFR 1910.900, November 14, 2000), and therefore does not necessarily address or reflect the provisions set forth in the final standard."
Thank you for that kind introduction. I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet with officials of important maritime groups and companies who assist OSHA in providing safe and healthful working conditions for the workers in the American maritime industry.
I also want to compliment you on your intensive emphasis on safety training in the industry. Training workers in specific job hazards and how to avoid them assists greatly in reducing injuries.
The association and the International Longshoremen's Association, AFL-CIO, also are to be congratulated for their joint efforts in drug and alcohol control on the East Coast and the Gulf. Those are pioneering efforts to deal with a substantial problem.
If today is like every other day in America, seventeen people won't come home from work because they will be killed in a job related fatality.
If today is like every other day in America, 17,000 workers will be hurt, perhaps maimed for life, on the job.
And countless others will die each year from illnesses that result from being exposed to harmful substances.
The costs to society from injury and illness in the workplace are substantial. The Rand Institute for Civil Justice has estimated that accidents occurring on work time in 1989 imposed costs of $83 billion, and the National Safety Council estimated that the total cost of work-related accidents was $115 billion in 1992.
A great deal of this cost, in human and economic terms, is avoidable because so much of the illness, injury and death occurring in America's workplaces is preventable. To increase the scope and impact of prevention activities by business, labor and government, many things must happen. Among the first things that must happen is that OSHA must become revitalized and recommitted to its mission of saving lives, preventing serious injuries and protecting the health of America's workers.
There is a tremendous gap between OSHA's mission and the resources available to it. We are responsible for: 6.2 million workplaces, with 92 million workers. We have a budget of only $297 million and 2300 employees to carry out our mission of assuring, as far as possible, that all these workers have a safe and healthful workplace. By comparison EPA has a budget of $6.6 BILLION. Even the Mine Safety and Health Administration has $195 million for 247 times fewer workplaces.
The result has been that Federal OSHA inspections are down. The 1985 high was 71,700 and in 1993 the total was 40,000.
Therefore, OSHA must reinvent itself. OSHA must focus on the most serious threats to worker health and safety and be prepared to redirect its enforcement, standards setting and education and training resources to where they can do the most to protect workers.
OSHA needs to encourage new and innovative ways for workers and employers to cooperate so they will be able to create the safest and healthiest workplaces possible.
A strong, energized and more effective OSHA will implement and enforce programs and policies that improve the health and safety of American workers and make American businesses more profitable and competitive.
Now let me discuss some of the major issues and programs we have under way. I will talk about our enforcement strategy; standard-setting, including our work on the new longshoring standard, and ergonomics and comprehensive safety and health program standards; training and education; OSHA Reform legislation; violence in the workplace; and our plans to work more closely with the states that operate their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health programs. I also want to discuss briefly two other major Administration initiatives to benefit the economy---health care reform and the Reemployment Act.
Enforcement is really the cornerstone of OSHA. An effective, credible and visible enforcement program is what deters employers from taking the low road.
Enforcement stimulates voluntary compliance and the demand for consultative services to help employers reduce worksite hazards.
We plan to build a stronger enforcement program. It will be backed by forceful litigation when necessary and will be a program that is balanced and supported by flexible policies and creative use of public and private resources.
We will increase penalties. We will authorize the OSHA field enforcement staff to use our full statutory authority on penalties and to do so with streamlined inspection procedures, especially for repeat offenders, willful violators of the safety and health standards, and others who show disregard for worker safety and health---the "bad actors". Such revised procedures will address the public's sense of outrage that such violators are "let off" with minimal penalties.
We will continue to use egregious cases and referrals for possible criminal prosecution, involving appropriate publicity and involvement of the Office of the Secretary of Labor.
In our enforcement efforts, we will stress consistency, so that employers in different parts of the nation, such as the East Coast, the West Coast and the Gulf Coast, know that they are getting equal treatment.
Targeted and more timely standard setting is one of our principal goals.
OSHA takes too long on standards. For example, the confined space standard took 17 years. People are injured and become ill because of the length of time required to produce a standard.
OSHA is creating a system of priorities based on the nature of the hazard; number of workers at risk; and the level of exposure.
We also are exploring opportunities to streamline the process through such techniques as negotiated rulemaking and by developing generic standards.
Last week we published our proposed standard for greater protection of workers in longshoring aboard vessels and in related activities ashore in marine terminals. We estimate that it would prevent 1,300 injuries a year.
These proposed revisions in longshoring and marine terminal regulations also are expected to prevent three deaths each year, avoid the loss of more than 30,000 work days due to such injuries annually, and save more than $18 million annually.
As you know, the longshoring industry has changed dramatically since 1971, when the present OSHA standards were adopted. Methods of cargo handling and the equipment associated with those methods have undergone significant modification. This proposal would modernize OSHA's regulatory approach to deal with these changes in the industry.
One major issue brought about by intermodalism (containerization) is containertop fall protection. Longshore workers often are required to work on top of containers on ship decks where the fall distance is typically 50 feet.
As a result of recent technological improvements in container securing devices, OSHA believes that many work operations that expose workers to fall hazards now can be eliminated. The use of semi-automatic twistlocks which secure one container to another, for example, eliminates the need for workers to go aloft in 90 percent of the cases. These devices represent an initial investment cost, but also result in significant productivity increases.
These engineering controls would be phased in over a three-year period to allow the international community to come into compliance with this provision. In the meantime, the fall protection requirements of the existing longshoring standard would apply.
Other hazards that are addressed by the proposal include those associated with cargo lifting gear, vehicular cargo transfers, manual cargo handling, and hazardous atmospheres and materials.
We are accepting comments on the proposal now, and we also will be holding public hearings in some of the major port cities---Charleston, S.C., Seattle, Wash., and New Orleans, La. We also will entertain requests for hearings in other locations.
This is a major new proposal affecting your industry, and we welcome your comments and testimony as we work toward a final rule.
I want to thank the Technical Safety Committee for the help it gave OSHA on this very important revision of the longshoring standards, as well as the assistance rendered by various locals of the ILA and the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.
We also plan to propose an ergonomics protection standard by end of this fiscal year in September.
There is an escalating problem of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. The problem is the product of a mismatch between the design of the workplace or the worker's tools and his or her ability to respond to the demands of the job. The result is an imbalanced work system.
Not only does it contribute greatly to the costs of workers' compensation, but this imbalance also results in poor productivity, poor quality and much pain and suffering.
The solution requires looking at the individual in the context of the organization, the task, the technology and the environment. This must be integrated into the design phases of future work.
We must put ergonomic principles and design into new jobs and minimize the ergonomic risk factors on existing jobs.
And workers have to be involved in this process. Workers provide the detailed knowledge achieved only by doing the job. They have eight hours per day to think about how the job could be improved. That feedback rarely makes it back to the process or design engineer. High performance means closing the feedback gap through continuous worker input.
OSHA is now in the process of developing a proposed ergonomics protection standard that will be used to assist and promote the process of improving workplace design and performance to eliminate or minimize the risk of all work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
Such a standard could provide protection for workers in longshoring, many of whom now perform manual lifting tasks that produce musculoskeletal disorders such as back injuries.
Comprehensive Safety and Health Programs
The Agency also is pursuing the development of a standard requiring employers to establish comprehensive safety and health programs.
Successfully implemented safety and health programs generally result in facilities that have a lower incidence of occupationally related illnesses and injuries.
While the specific elements of existing comprehensive safety and health (COSH) programs may vary, the general concept is the same.
Rather than addressing problems one by one, COSH programs are designed to coordinate and integrate all facets of occupational safety and health into the management practices of the facility.
The logic of this approach is simple. Prevent adverse effects from occurring by identifying hazards, and implementing a plan to eliminate or control them.
By doing this systematically, resources are not duplicated or wasted, and a coordinated, integrated strategy can be implemented.
You should be aware that we have included this in the longshoring proposal as a separate issue. We are very interested in your input on this issue.
Training and education
We also are stepping up our training and education efforts in private industry.
Our budget request for FY 95 includes a substantial increase for training and education, including more money for expanding our training and education grants to the private sector.
The OSHA Training Institute is overseeing the establishment of additional regional Education Centers to expand the availability of OSHA-sanctioned safety and health training. We now have such centers in New Hampshire; New York State; Washington, D.C.; Texas; Georgia; Missouri; Colorado, and California.
With the promulgation of the new standards in the longshoring industry, the Training Institute's maritime curriculum will be updated and outreach materials will be developed.
The Office of Maritime Standards and the Office of Training and Education are exploring new ways with the industry in the development of these materials.
Cooperation with State Plans
As you know, there are 23 states and territories that operate their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health programs on a full coverage basis. Two other states, New York and Connecticut, have state programs that cover state and local government employees only. Four of these states cover the marine terminal aspect of longshoring operations. They are California, Minnesota, Vermont and Washington.
Having come from a state plan in the State of Washington, I am particularly sensitive to the relationship between federal OSHA and the state and territorial plans.
Outsiders often make the mistake of thinking there are two OSHA systems in this country: federal and state plans. But it is far more useful to look at government regulation of safety and health as a unified system with a federal component and a state component. Improving communication between the two partners is one of my highest personal priorities.
I want to be sure that we incorporate consideration of the States into our thinking and planning. I also asked the State plans to assist in assuring nationwide applicability of consistent policies. That does not mean that programs must be mirror images. But the bottom line is that employers and employees should expect similar treatment from OSHA, whether from the Federal Government or a State plan.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Jim Stanley, who oversees the agency's enforcement and field programs, has said incorporating the field offices and the state-plan States in actions of the federal office is one of his principal aims.
He already has been including regional and state-level offices in some of his regular staff meetings, and he intends to continue this practice.
In early April, we held a State Plan Monitoring Reinvention Conference in Chicago, attended by representatives of most of the states operating their own occupational safety and health programs as well as federal OSHA personnel who deal with the States. A total of 40 recommendations for streamlining State-Federal relationships resulted. The conference facilitator reported that the suggestions will assist federal and State programs to develop a "new partnership--one that allows all the different components to meld into a single, recognizable entity that is dedicated to workplace safety and health."
The public must perceive that the efforts of Federal OSHA and the state-plan States and territories in occupational safety and health are united.
Both Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and I have testified before Congress in favor of OSHA Reform legislation.
OSHA Reform is good for workers, good for employers and good for the nation. It will save lives, prevent injuries and illnesses, and save money. Through safety and health programs and joint committees, employees will be empowered to work with employers to improve the safety and health of their individual workplaces.
Advocates of safer and healthier workplaces, and I believe that we can include all of you in that group, can take some satisfaction from the successes of the Occupational Safety and Health Act since its passage in 1970. Rates of fatalities from traumatic injuries have been cut in half, standards have produced measurable improvements in worker health in specific industries, enforcement accompanied by monetary fines produces lower incidence of worker injuries.
But the overall incidence of injury and illness measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not declined significantly, and costs of these injuries and illnesses continue to skyrocket.
A concentrated focus on a management agenda to increase OSHA's organizational effectiveness can yield some substantial improvements. That is why I am committed, determined, to conduct a program that will reinvent OSHA in enforcement, standard setting and education and training.
But it won't be enough. Congress must improve the Act. The Act needs strengthening to:
* get workers involved in plant health and safety through joint safety and health committees;
* provide coverage to seven million state and local government employees;
* adopt air contaminant standards that are truly protective; o establish meaningful criminal sanctions for those few situations where injury or death is the result of willful violations of specific standards; and
* address the unique hazards and conditions of the construction industry.
The House Education and Labor Committee completed its markup March 10. It made some changes, but preserved the major provisions of the legislation.
As Secretary of Labor Reich has noted, in a highly competitive global economy, we simply cannot tolerate the high costs of workplace injury and illness. In today's economy -- where capital and information cross national borders instantly -- a nation's comparative advantage comes from the only resource that stays more or less fixed within its borders: its workers. That is why the centerpiece of this Administration's economic strategy is investing in our workers -- their skills, their abilities and their capacity to innovate. Investing in their health and safety is a part of this strategy, for healthy and safe workers are productive workers.
Health Care Reform
Not only will OSHA Reform assist in building the New American Workplace, but so will passage of the Administration's proposals for Health Care Reform.
Health care now consumes nearly 15 percent of our gross domestic product, far higher than in any other industrialized country. Business health care expenditures, currently $200 billion, now nearly equal after-tax profits.
A major factor is the bloated and highly inefficient structure we have for health insurance. Over $45 billion went for administrative expenses in 1992.
Another reason for the soaring cost of employee health insurance is that the premiums businesses are paying are inflated by $25 billion to cover the health care costs of those without insurance.
The pressures experienced by businesses as a result of skyrocketing health care costs are felt with full force by their employees. Businesses pass on rising health care costs by holding down employees' compensation, redirecting money that would otherwise have gone for wages. The Brookings Institution estimates that rising health care costs have consumed 58% of workers' potential wage increases since 1980, and, if left unchecked, will soon consume 100%.
Another response of some employers has been to require workers to pay an increasing share of their health care costs.
For some, the alternative to reductions in compensation is to reduce or eliminate entirely the health care coverage itself. Employer coverage of the non-elderly population fell from 66.8% in 1988 to 62.5% in 1992.
Also, up to 30% of workers feel "locked" into current jobs because they fear that a new employer may not offer insurance, or someone in their family has a pre-existing condition that would not be covered if they switched jobs.
Some of the benefits of the Administration's Health Security Act are that it would:
--Provide a truly competitive health insurance market and major administrative efficiencies that would result in major cost savings to both employers and those employees who contribute to health plan coverage.
--Lessen the burden that workers' compensation costs impose on American industry by partially integrating workers' compensation medical costs into the new system.
--Facilitate greater productivity growth. As health care costs decrease, the economy will be able to produce more output than it would have without reform. This productivity increase will raise living standards, which is the principal objective of this Administration's economic policies.
--Health insurance also would be completely portable, removing fears of employees who feel locked in by fear of losing health insurance on a new job, removing fears of those on welfare that if they join the workforce they lose health insurance coverage, and the fears of those who would like to start new businesses but are prevented by fear of losing their health insurance or by the prohibitive costs of providing their employees with health insurance.
The Administration also has proposed a Reemployment Act, designed to equip all Americans to participate in the new, improving economy. Basically, it would consolidate all major dislocated-worker programs into an integrated service system geared to deliver what workers need to get their next job, regardless of why they lost their last job; and allow states to develop one-stop career centers to streamline access to a wide range of job training and employment programs.
OSHA is moving ahead, in standards, enforcement, training and education, and compliance assistance. You are leaders for better safety and health in the maritime industry. I salute you and applaud your efforts.
There's a common ground between workers' concern about the human cost of injury and illness and employer concern about the economic cost. Both concerns can be met simultaneously. We in OSHA, with your help, want to find and enlarge that common ground. We will help businesses compete, save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of workers.
We want to work with all of you as we build a revitalized OSHA. Once the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH) is reappointed, we plan to establish a special maritime working group to serve as liaison between NACOSH and the industry.
Together we can make safety and health in the maritime industry a model of excellence.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|