Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 07/07/1994
• Presented To: Small Business Legislative Council
• Speaker: Dear, Joseph A.
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

"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, Ted, for that kind introduction. (Ted Olson, president of the council and president of Promotional Products Association will introduce you.)

I also want to thank all of you for giving me this opportunity to discuss the changes that we are making in OSHA and its programs. I want to ask for your assistance, as leaders of small business organizations, in helping to shape those programs so that they can provide maximum safety and health protection for the workers in small businesses, without unduly burdening small business employers.

As you know, small businesses face the same workplace safety and health problems that large employers have. Their workers can suffer the same injuries and illnesses that workers in large firms suffer. Therefore, we must provide them with the same degree of protection.

At the same time, we are well aware that small employers often lack the resources or expertise to comply with new regulations. Therefore, one of our aims is to make those regulations as easy as possible to comply with. We think you and your organizations can help us achieve that goal, by offering alternatives that assure worker protection while minimizing the regulatory burden and costs.

The Problem

The ability to protect the safety and health of the American worker continues to challenge OSHA, business, both large and small, and labor each and every day.

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 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.

Of course, there is no way to quantify the human costs--the suffering, anguish, anxiety and lost potential except to note that it is enormous.

OSHA'S Mission

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 thing 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.

This gap between mission and resources is the principal driver behind the necessity for OSHA to 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.

The Road to Safer and Healthier Workplaces

This is OSHA's strategy for traveling the road to safer and healthier New American Workplaces:

* Set the rules of the road with finely balanced standards, that are protective, feasible, comprehensible and enforceable.

* Block the low road and deter any employers tempted to take it with tough enforcement.

* Encourage the high road--stay out of the way of employers who go above and beyond OSHA's minimum requirements, celebrate successes in workplace safety and health and assist employers who want to develop high performance workplaces.

Let me discuss each of the components of our strategy.

Blocking the Low Road Through Enforcement

Enforcement is really the cornerstone of OSHA. Tough enforcement sends an unambiguous message to employers who are on the low road, the road of employers who consciously neglect health and safety and treat their workers as just another factor of production to be disposed of like human debris if they become sick or injured. Enforcement also deters employers who are tempted to take the low road and creates a demand for voluntary compliance.

OSHA is using a common sense approach to maintaining an effective, credible and visible enforcement program. The approach is guided by Secretary of Labor Robert Reich's four-pronged strategy of: (1) targeting the worst actors and the worst offenses; (2) protecting vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and low-wage workers who are often the subject of the worst abuses by employers; (3) deterring violations with significant penalties, including criminal penalties; and (4) getting results swiftly and efficiently. Cases and regulations should not languish for years.

One point that I want to make on enforcement is that OSHA does have a system for reducing penalties based on the size of the employer, the employer's previous history and the employer's good faith efforts to provide good workplace safety and health. Obviously we will not, however, make such reductions in truly flagrant cases involving "bad actors."

Setting the Rules of the Road Through Standard Setting

OSHA must have something to enforce and that means standards, the rules of the road.

Targeted, more timely and balanced standard setting is one of our principal goals.

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.

During fiscal years 1994 and 1995 we are planning action on some 40 safety and health standards. This includes 18 proposed and 22 final standards. It is the most ambitious regulatory agenda in OSHA history.

We used two broad criteria in considering our top OSHA standards priorities:

1. Generic standards which fill significant gaps in hazard protection. We call these OSHA "building blocks."

2. Specific standards covering very high risk or very broad exposure issues.

Leading the first category of building blocks aimed at filling significant gaps in hazard protection is ergonomics protection. We plan to publish a proposed ergonomics standard this Fall.

Ergonomics Standard

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.

We will propose a broad performance-oriented rule with specific guidance in certain areas. Compliance assistance documents will be provided. User-friendly appendices will address how to get started with an effective ergonomics management program, the process of improving jobs, medical management, and training.

As I indicated earlier, we will welcome your suggestions on how the proposed standard can be adapted to meet the needs of small businesses, without denying their employees necessary safety and health protection.

Other building blocks

Other proposed building block standards will involve requirements for written health and safety programs; revision of the regulations, forms and associated interpretative material for recording and reporting occupational injury and illness data; and medical surveillance for workers exposed to harmful substances.

In each case, we believe that the building block standard will not only strengthen the safety and health protection of the workers, but make it easier for employers to provide effective protection.

And, in each case, as a building block standard is proposed, we want the input of you and your organizations on how the final rule can be written to meet the needs of small businesses.

Among standards addressing areas of high risk or broad exposure are:

Indoor Air Quality

We have stepped up to a big health problem and published a proposed rule that would regulate indoor air quality and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to protect more than 20 million exposed workers. We have taken the action to prevent thousands of heart disease deaths, hundreds of lung disease deaths, and respiratory diseases and other ailments linked to these hazards. Hearings are to begin in September and we invite your participation, again to outline how the rule can be adapted to serve small business.


Outbreaks of highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis among health care workers have prompted us to include this standard among our top priorities. We plan to publish a proposal in mid-1995. In the meantime, we have issued a memorandum to the field outlining compliance procedures to protect workers against TB.

Fall protection. This includes standards to provide fall protection in both construction and general industry. A third of all worksite deaths in construction are due to falls.

Final fall protection standard for construction, scheduled for fourth quarter of FY 1994.

Two standards on scaffolds in construction (final in first quarter of FY 1995) and in maritime (publish final during fourth quarter of FY 1995).

Final standard on walking/working surfaces (provides fall protection and scaffolds for general industry), which is scheduled for publication in the third quarter of FY 1995.

Negotiated rulemaking to work on a standard for steel erection. First meetings were held last month.

Progress in standards

We have already made remarkable progress in carrying out a regulatory schedule set just six months ago, in December.

Since December, we have published four new final rules and three proposed rules.

In addition to the proposed rule on indoor air quality and environmental tobacco smoke I have already mentioned, we have proposed a rule that would:

* Require employers to certify that they have abated workplace hazards cited by OSHA and, in certain cases, submit abatement plans and progress reports. Tags on cited equipment would be required to inform employees of a hazard while the abatement is under way.

One very important new final rule requires employers to orally report any occupational fatality or catastrophe involving in-patient hospitalization of three or more workers within eight hours. Shortening the reporting period from 48 hours to eight will enable OSHA to respond to workplace accidents more quickly and help assure that no other employees remain at risk. Lowering the reportable number of hospitalizations from five to three will provide the Agency with additional information on the causes of workplace accidents. OSHA's 1-800 hotline can be used for reporting these fatalities or catastrophes. The number is 1-800-321-OSHA.

We also updated the hazard communication standard, which protection to the millions of workers who must dangerous chemicals on the job. The update modifies clarifies various provisions to help ensure full compliance, thus increasing worker protection.

Encouraging the High Road

We want to encourage employers to take the high road, to commit to management of health and safety that goes beyond mere compliance, that embraces the principles of continuous quality improvement, worker empowerment and prevention.

We can do this through assisting them in developing high-performance workplaces which include excellent safety and health programs. And when they develop such programs, we want to recognize and celebrate their success.

In the case of small businesses, we provide such encouragement through the OSHA-funded state consultation programs. These programs are primarily aimed at assisting small employers in high-hazard industries.

In FY 1993, these consultation programs made more than 26,000 visits to worksites, assisting employers to discover 127,000 serious hazards and 57,000 other-than-serious hazards. A total of 22,500 of the visits were initial consultation visits and the remainder involved training and assistance and follow-up visits to make sure hazards were abated. Altogether, $28.5 million was spent in funding these programs in FY '93. A total of $31.1 million has been appropriated for the OSHA consultation programs in FY '94. The majority of consultation visits are made to businesses with less than 50 employees.

Employers who request and receive consultation assistance and meet certain safety and health program requirements are given a one-year exemption from OSHA programmed inspections under the "SHARP" program. This is an acronym for "Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program." In effect, it provides recognition for those small employers who demonstrate exemplary achievements in workplace safety and health by receiving a comprehensive safety and health visit, correcting all safety and health hazards, and adopting and implementing effective safety and health management systems.

OSHA also has participated in a pioneering effort in Georgia known as Project Safe Georgia, a cooperative pilot project of the insurance industry and OSHA to explore new ways to help small businesses better protect their workers. Six industries were chosen for attention. They were restaurants, refuse removers, home builders, auto body repairers, sawmills, and printers.

The two most successful efforts of Project Safe Georgia involved the Waffle House restaurants and Georgia-Pacific Corp.

In Waffle House, the project demonstrated cost-effective measures for preventing slips and falls and cuts in restaurants, working with the restaurant chain and a number of safety product suppliers who provided their products without charge. Occupational injuries and workers' compensation costs were sharply reduced in the Waffle House restaurants participating in the project.

A. D. (Pete) Correll, chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia-Pacific Corp., served as chairman of Project Safe Georgia for two years and recognized that sawmill safety is the area in which his company, Georgia-Pacific, could have the biggest impact.

He made a commitment to bring a Georgia-Pacific sawmill into OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs, to make it a model for others to learn from, and also to put on a daylong demonstration at the sawmill so that smaller sawmill operators might learn from Georgia-Pacific's experience. That demonstration was held in March and was a big success.

The state of Illinois is now developing a similar program to assist small businesses in Illinois to provide better protection to their workers.

OSHA also has been holding discussions with representatives of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) about the possibility of some of their members providing pro bono assistance to small businesses in conjunction with the OSHA consultation program.

So you can see that we are committed to actively helping small employers to take the high road of workplace safety and health excellence.


I hope that you leave here today realizing that OSHA is moving ahead, with significant changes in enforcement, standards development, and encouragement to employers to follow the high road to workplace safety and health.

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.

We believe that small businesses in America must provide safe and healthful working conditions for their employees. We want to assist them in doing so. Therefore, we want a continuing discussion between organizations such as the Small Business Legislative Council and the organizations you represent and OSHA on the best ways to achieve this. You know the problems that your member employers face, and you can suggest alternative methods of providing good workplace safety and health. We look forward to receiving those suggestions.

Thank you again for this opportunity.
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents

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