Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 07/16/1994
• Presented To: Associated Builders and Contrators Inc., Board of Directors
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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, Leo, for that kind introduction. (Leo Anhalt, president of ABC and SSI, will introduce you.) I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet with the board of directors of ABC. In case some of you don't realize it, ABC and I go back a long way. When I was Director of the State of Washington's Department of Labor and Industries, ABC did me the honor of suing me twice. One of those suits was settled and the other one may still be rattling around in courts. In any event, I do want to say hello to Kathleen Garrity of the Seattle Chapter and Judd Lees, the Chapter attorney.

I also want to thank your very able director for federal regulations, Suey Howe, and Steve Cloutier (Stephen Cloutier, safety/loss control manager for Metric Constructors, Inc., and ABC employer representative on ACCSH) for the help ABC has given to OSHA in the past, through the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) and in developing construction standards and training employers and employees in implementing them. OSHA has had a long, productive association with ABC and we want to continue that relationship. We look forward to increased involvement with ABC.

I have been having a great time working with Secretary Reich to transform OSHA. It is a revitalized OSHA, recommitted to its mission of saving lives, preventing serious injuries and protecting the health of America's workers. We are focusing our efforts on the most serious threats to worker health and safety -- redirecting inspections and standard setting to where they can do the most to protect workers. We also want to develop new and innovative ways to encourage cooperation between workers and employers and educate workers and employers so they will be able to create the safest and healthiest workplaces possible. We can use the help of ABC and its members in carrying out this transformation.

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 businesses such as yours more profitable and competitive.

The 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. Three of those killed each day are construction workers.

If today is like every other day in America, 17,000 will be hurt, perhaps maimed for life, on the job. About 1,400 of the injured will be in construction.

And countless others will die each year from illnesses that result from being exposed to harmful substances, such as lead and asbestos in construction.

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, workers 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.

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.

In construction enforcement, we plan to focus more of our resources on checking for hazards that are related to the leading causes of construction deaths. They are: falls from elevations (33% of all constuction fatalities); being struck by machines or materials (22%); being caught in (trenching collapses) or between (a vehicle and another surface) (18%); and electrical shock (17%) Most construction citations have been for violations that are unrelated to those major killer causes.

OSHA's time can be more effectively spent investigating the most dangerous workplace conditions in construction.

What we will do is determine who is the controlling contractor on the worksite and whether that contractor has an effective safety and health program and a person on the site responsible for implementing that program.

If the answer is "yes," then we will perform an inspection focusing on the four killer hazards. We would still cite for any other serious violations in plain view during the inspection.

If the controlling contractor does not have an effective safety and health program and a person responsible for implementing the program, then we will perform our usual comprehensive inspection.

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.

One of our proposed "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 a big problem of musculoskeletal disorders in construction, particularly back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome cases.

There are solutions. For example, appropriate tools and fixtures can assist in reducing awkward postures and forces that lead to such disorders.

The standard we propose will be flexible enough to be used to greatly reduce ergonomic hazards on construction sites.

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.

We will discuss our ergonomics proposal in a meeting with ACCSH in August.

Other standards will address areas of high risk or broad exposure such as:

Fall Protection. This includes:

A final fall protection standard for construction (Subpart M of Part 1926), scheduled to be issued very soon. As I noted earlier, a third of all worksite deaths in construction are due to falls. Incidentally, I had the privilege of observing the fall protection system designed by Rocky Turner's firm (C. Rockwell Turner, L.P.R. Construction, Loveland, Colo.) for workers constructing the Coors Field baseball stadium in Denver. It is an outstanding example of good safety practice which not only saves lives but reduces workers' compensation claims.

A final standard on scaffolds in construction (Subpart L of Part 1926) which we hope to issue within the next few months.

Negotiated rulemaking on a standard for steel erection. First meetings of the negotiated rulemaking advisory committee were held last month in Bethesda, Md; a second round was held this week in Denver; and other meetings are scheduled for August in Boston; September in Washington; November in St. Louis and December in Washington. In other words, the committee is meeting on an almost monthly basis. Rocky Turner is a member of that committee.


We also will soon issue revised standards to provide much improved protection for workers exposed to asbestos in general industry, construction and the maritime industry.

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.

Many ABC members have such programs, as witnessed by the fact that ABC contractors have won about 75 percent of the awards made by the Business Roundtable for outstanding safety records in the industry.

Two ABC members -- BE & K Construction Co., a general contractor based in Birmingham, Ala., and Gulf States, Inc., a specialty trade contractor operating throughout the nation -- were among the "worker protection program success stories in construction" listed in a report on worker protection programs in construction developed by Meridian Research for OSHA.

BE & K Construction's program includes an on-site safety professional advising management, consideration of safety performance in decisions on promotions, an annual safety conference for managers, and holding the on-site manager accountable for safety. The success of the program is measured by the fact that the injury/illness rate is less than a third of the injury average and one worksite has had over seven years without experiencing a lost workday.

Gulf States' program includes a continuous improvement process in which all employees are responsible for instituting organized change; emphasis on-going training; a drug program; selecting subcontractors on considerations that include their safety records and safety programs; management commitment to setting goals and evaluating performance; and a requirement that all accident or incident data including near-misses must be reported to the corporate level in 24 hours with investigations required. Gulf States estimates that the program resulted in saving $5.3 million and avoided 267 lost workdays in a four year-period.

Meridian Research, in its report to OSHA, said that for the construction industry as a whole, the net cost savings associated with worker protection programs could be as high as $16 billion a year.

We have been looking at the possibility of using the Federal procurement process as an incentive to construction companies to work safely.

Education and Training

OSHA's Office of Construction and Engineering also is working on improving education and training. For example, earlier this year the office published the book," The 100 Most Frequently Cited OSHA Construction Standards in 1991; A Guide for the Abatement of the top 25 Associated Physical Hazards," which has become something of a best-seller among OSHA publications sold by the Government Printing Office. Both OSHA compliance officers and contractors now have a better idea of what to look for---what hazards most need abatement.

The Office also is developing materials to increase OSHA compliance officers' knowledge of construction. For example, we now have a video tape on scaffold technology and scaffold inspections. Those materials also may be useful to you, in your compliance efforts. The video on scaffolding, titled "A Basic Look at Scaffolding for Compliance Officers," is now available through the National Audiovisual Center for a nominal fee. The phone number of the center is (301) 763-1896. The video also is available on a free loan basis from OSHA's area, regional, and national offices.

New Director of Office of Construction and Engineering

The Office of Construction and Engineering has a new director. He is Russell B. "Bruce" Swanson, who has had a long, distinguished career in executive positions with OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, including serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. Prior to joining the Federal Government, he was Commissioner of Labor for the State of Minnesota. As head of Minnesota's OSHA program, Bruce had a close personal relationship with labor and management in that state's construction industry. Bruce succeeds Dr. Charles Culver, who has taken a teaching post with Clemson University in South Carolina.

We hope that the activities of the Office can be expanded so that it has an even greater impact on construction safety and health. Bruce will be devoting much of his time working with industry and labor on solutions to construction safety and health problems. I am also considering recommendations that most of OSHA's activities involving construction should be consolidated in the Office of Construction and Engineering.

The Office has worked closely with ABC in conducting training programs, and I hope this cooperation will continue in the future. The more that organizations such as ABC can develop training and education in the industry, the greater the worker safety in construction.


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.

I recognize that we have differing views on some issues, such as OSHA Reform, and that your industry is divided between those employers who favor unions and those who do not. But this does not mean that we cannot all work together, as we have done for years through ACCSH and in standards development and training and now through the negotiated rulemaking advisory committee on steel erection. What really counts is construction worker safety and health, and I think all of you realize that.

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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