Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 03/23/1995
• Presented To: Northwest Indiana Business Roundtable
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

NOTE: THIS IS THE TEXT PREPARED AND SUBMITTED TO MR. DEAR AND IS NOT NECESSARILY THE SPEECH AS DELIVERED.

 
                                                                Rev. 3/22
REMARKS BY JOSEPH A. DEAR
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF LABOR
FOR OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH
BEFORE
NORTHWEST INDIANA BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE
SECOND ANNUAL HEALTH & SAFETY CONFERENCE
10:30 a.m. Thursday, March 23, 1995

Good morning, and thank you, Ralph, for that kind introduction.

(Ralph Topete, safety director of the Construction Advancement Foundation, which does OSHA-mandated training for building tradesmen in the area).

Events like this -- where representatives of labor and management in the construction industry gather to discuss common problems and solutions -- can do a great deal to promote good safety and health in construction in your area. This is exactly the kind of partnership that OSHA encourages.

These partnerships do work.

The RATE of injuries and illnesses in construction has dropped--from 13.1 cases per 100 workers in 1992 to 12.2 in 1993, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

So we believe that the efforts of OSHA, labor and management in the industry, by working together, are having an impact on improving construction worker protection. As you know, the mission of OSHA is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the safety and health of workers. You're helping in that mission.

Before I go any further, I want to talk a little about our state partner --- yours and mine -- the Indiana OSHA program. Commissioner Kenneth J. Zeller not only provides the leadership for an effective program in the Hoosier state, but works with Federal OSHA in development of national policies to improve workplace safety and health. He also has been active in the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, which assists in coordinating the activities of the 25 state and territorial occupational safety and health program.

Under his leadership, the rate of work-related fatalities in the state reported to Indiana OSHA has declined by 46 % during the past 5 years. BLS injury and illness rates in the state also declined in 1993. So it is an effective program.

Indiana also is to be commended for the progress it is making in construction safety and health. It has been particularly successful in reducing fatalities in trenching. In two years prior to joining a national emphasis program on trenching, Indiana had 12 trenching fatalities. Since then, while conducting 75 inspections of excavations annually, the State has had only one trenching fatality. The state also is in the second year of a local emphasis program on scaffolds, conducting more than 150 inspections a year in this program and it is about to embark on a new local emphasis program on lead in construction. These are all very useful programs.

On the Federal level, we also are currently doing quite a lot to try to improve construction safety and health.

We have a new, improved program of enforcement in construction.

Basically, we are focusing inspections on hazards that are related to the leading causes of construction deaths: falls from elevations; being struck by machines or materials; being caught in trenching collapses or between a vehicle and another surface; and electrical shock.

OSHA's time can be more effectively spent investigating the most dangerous workplace conditions in construction. What we 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 both an effective safety and health program and a person responsible for implementing the program, then we will perform our usual comprehensive inspection.

This new policy became effective October 1. So far about 14 % of the construction sites visited by Federal OSHA nationally have qualified for and received focused inspections. This isn't a bad start -- but we are hoping that the percentage will increase significantly as we proceed with the program and more contractors become aware of its existence. If focused inspection works in construction as well as we think it will, we will try to apply the principles of focused enforcement in other industries.

Indiana did not adopt the focused inspection policy in its construction enforcement activities, but has agreed to closely examine those hazards when conducting construction inspections.

In our compliance activities, we also have clarified who is responsible for paying for the personal protective equipment that workers are required to have on the job. In most cases, we say, it is the employer who must provide and pay for such equipment.

If the equipment is very personal in nature and is usable by the workers off the job, the matter of payment may be left to labor-management negotiations. But we think that clarification of the responsibility for providing and paying for PPE will enhance the use of necessary PPE in construction and other industries.

We also are hoping to develop our Office of Construction and Engineering as a "one-stop" shop for anyone interested in construction safety and health, including employers, workers, other Government agencies and academia. All OSHA's activities involving construction including health compliance assistance, construction safety compliance assistance, statistics, training and standards would either be under the Office of Construction and Engineering or coordinated through the Office.

We hope that this would result in closer relationships with the industry that enable us to maximize our limited resources through new partnerships that will provide reductions in construction injuries, illnesses and deaths.

We want to do more in training and education, particularly on spelling out the elements of a safe construction worksite. We want to generate the kind of data that will enable us to better target our limited resources in the areas of enforcement, training and compliance assistance in construction. We also want to make sure that our own OSHA personnel are well-trained in construction hazards and how to abate them.

We also are expanding recognition programs for workplaces with strong demonstrations of worker participation and management commitment to comprehensive hazard recognition and control. For construction, we have developed a Construction Safety Excellence Demonstration Program (CSEDP), comparable to the Star program in our Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) for general industry.

The difference is that the construction company, not the worksite as in VPP, applies for participation in CSEDP. This is because many construction sites are of insufficient duration to meet certain VPP requirements.

The advantage to the construction employer is that this type of program will result in lower injuries and illnesses, reduced workers' compensation costs, higher productivity and enhanced standing in the community. In addition, the sites will be removed from the list for programmed inspections, although they can still be inspected if there are worker complaints or a catastrophic accident.

It is a heightened form of recognition just as your roundtable makes awards for outstanding safety programs in this area. I understand that Indiana also is considering the possibility of instituting VPP programs.

Another of our principal goals has been targeted, more timely and balanced standard setting.

To accomplish this, we created 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 the negotiated rulemaking we are utilizing in steel erection and by developing generic standards.

One of our proposed generic "building blocks" aimed at filling significant gaps in hazard protection involves ergonomic protection.

Our research indicates that certain types of musculoskeletal disorders such as lower back disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome are very prevalent in construction. An ergonomic protection standard would assist greatly in preventing such disorders.

Last August we issued a final rule to protect construction workers from falls, the leading cause of worker fatalities in the industry. We can reasonably expect that approximately 80 people will still be alive next year and there will be 56,000 fewer injuries because of compliance with this new standard. That's real progress. (Indiana adopted an identical standard in January, with an effective date of February 6, l995.)

Recently we announced that we are delaying until Aug. 6, 1995 application of the fall protection rule to any steel erection activities. Five steel erection companies, members of the National Erectors Association (NEA), had petitioned for an administrative stay of the standard. NEA joined them. The delay will avoid any conflict with the current steel erection rule and the proposal for revision being developed by the steel erection negotiated rulemaking advisory committee (SENRAC). We also will be reopening the rulemaking record on the construction fall protection rule, once SENRAC identifies what non-building steel erection will be covered by Subpart R.

SENRAC (the steel erection negotiated rulemaking advisory committee) includes representatives of labor, industry, public interests and government agencies, as well as groups interested in, or affected by, the outcome of the rulemaking on steel erection. The committee will develop a proposed rule through consensus. OSHA then will publish it in the Federal Register for notice and comment. The idea is that the preproposal consensus will effectively narrow the issues in the subsequent rulemaking to only those that truly remain controversial.

The committee has been making substantial progress. It expects to have its work substantially completed by June of this year. It may take another month or so to put all the finishing touches to the proposal, but we expect to have a proposal ready by late summer of this year.

Despite the anti-regulatory furor in Washington, and the too-common perception that OSHA should be abolished, OSHA's record is a good one.

Simply put, OSHA SAVES LIVES. Through its protective standards and enforcement programs, OSHA has helped reduce the workplace fatality rate by over 50 percent since 1970. Eliminating the Agency or gutting these programs would be a terrible tragedy for working men and women and their employers -- most of whom sincerely want to provide safe and healthful workplaces.

We can cite plenty of safety and health "success stories" involving individual worksites.

For example, in 1992, an OSHA compliance officer observed employees of a steel erection company in Illinois working without fall protection atop a 30-foot high warehouse under construction. An inspection was conducted and citations were issued to the company, along with a proposed penalty of $12,900.

Company officials told the area OSHA office that this inspection had moved fall protection to the top of their agenda. They realized that if they continued to operate as they had done in the past regarding fall protection, they would be subject to willful citations and large monetary penalties.

The company elected to become a leader in implementing fall protection, and has undertaken to use fall protection practices as a competitive advantage that they cite in bidding for contracts. Their contracts contain specific provisions for fall protection. They also have devised their own fall protection equipment and work procedures, including safety requirements in pre-job planning. Business has boomed, and the company is now widely known for its fall protection program. General contractors who want fall protection on their jobs now seek them out. New construction techniques resulting from their fall protection considerations enable their projects to be completed ahead of schedule. Insurance and injury rates have dropped substantially, saving money and giving the firm a competitive advantage in bidding. That's the kind of story we like to hear in construction safety and health.

Here in northwest Indiana, many of you have heard the story of Superior Construction Co., Gary, as told by Tom Owens, the safety director.

Superior developed and implemented a comprehensive quality safety program that includes top management commitment, realistic goals for improvement, understandable safety programs, employee training at all levels, employee participation and employee motivation, accident investigation, use of recordkeeping data to discover trends and develop accident prevention policies, and weekly jobsite inspections to correct safety deficiencies.

The results have been very good -- a reduction in injuries requiring medical treatment from 192 in 1990 to 33 last year, and a corresponding reduction in the costs of such injuries, from $3.2 million in 1990 to less than $100,000 last year.

OSHA commissioned Meridian Research, Inc., to do a study of worker protection programs in the construction industry. Meridian found general agreement that well-designed safety and health management programs can indeed cut accident rates dramatically and stem increases in workers' compensation costs.

A couple of examples cited: Gulf States, Inc., a large specialty-trade contractor, estimates that its worker protection program prevented 267 lost-workday injuries and saved $5.3 million in costs in a 3-year period. Pizzagalli Construction Co. estimates it spends about $100,000 annually on its safety and health program but saves six times as much in workers' compensation costs.

But OUR WORK IS FAR FROM DONE. Every year, work-related accidents and illnesses cost an estimated 56,000 American lives -- more than the total American lives lost in battle during the entire 9-year Vietnam war. On an average day, 17 working Americans are killed in safety accidents, an estimated 137 more die from occupational disease, and another 16,000 are injured. You may think of those numbers as just statistics to be used in a speech. But imagine how you'd feel if one of those people were your spouse, child, friend -- or even you. Those numbers represent people -- you and me.

Safety accidents alone cost our economy over $100 billion a year, and occupational illnesses cost many times more. We all bear these costs, as employers, as workers and as taxpayers.

So we should be doing even more, not less. There is a tremendous gap between our mission, which encompasses safety and health for over 93 million workers employed at over 6 million workplaces and our resources, $312 million and 2,300 people. We have to change the way we do business in order to narrow that gap.

We are doing things such as:

--redesigning our field offices to focus on the most serious threats to worker safety and health, and to promote partnerships with employers and employees;

--streamlining paperwork requirements for employers. We will simplify the regulation for recording occupational injuries and illnesses that currently affects more than one million employers nationwide.

--improving the way that OSHA responds to workers' complaints about hazardous conditions. Field offices in Peoria, Illinois, and Cleveland already have sharply reduced the time from receipt of a non-formal complaint to abatement of the hazard

--working closely in partnership with key business and labor groups to develop a proposed rule for safety and health programs. This rule will become the basic foundation for all future workplace safety and health efforts. OSHA, in partnership with business and labor groups, will use a wide range of outreach, education and training to provide all possible assistance to employers and employees.

-- working to weed out outdated, duplicative or conflicting standards. We want to get rid of provisions that clutter up the standards books and do nothing to protect life or limb.

But Congress is moving so fast to "deregulate" industry that many valuable OSHA programs that could enhance employer-employee efforts to increase safety may be destroyed.

The House has passed legislation to impose a one-year moratorium on all new regulations. But the Senate appears to have put this legislation on hold for the time being. If the moratorium bill becomes law, thousands of American workers will suffer work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses that could otherwise have been avoided.

The House also passed regulatory reform legislation that would impose burdensome and often unnecessary requirements on OSHA's standard-setting process. These requirements would create extensive new layers of bureaucracy, and impose significant new data collection and paperwork burdens on employers. These new requirements also would cause years of delays in OSHA's protective standards. Again, these delays mean one thing: that thousands of America's working families will needlessly face a workplace tragedy that could have been avoided.

In addition, the House has approved a cut in our FY95 budget of $19.5 million. Such a cut, if it becomes law, would clearly impede activities such as expansion of our consultation program for employers and developing better data to improve our ability to target the worst hazards and worksites.

We had expected a cut of $16 million. We initiated a hiring freeze in anticipation of some recision. This last week an amendment was offered to cut an additional $3.5 million -- specifically offered to stop OSHA from working on the ergonomic standard. Unfortunately, the cuts will actually hurt our employees, and those workers who will continue to suffer in the absence of protective standards.

OSHA has a responsibility to protect working men and women and we will continue to do that. Can we do a better job? YES! But as Secretary of Labor Reich told Congress," If you think working Americans don't deserve protection in the workplace, or help in adapting to the new economy, I can promise you a fight. But if you think Americans are rightly demanding that we do these things efficiently, creatively, and accountably, I can promise you a partner."

We want you as our partners in providing worker protection efficiently, creatively and accountably.


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 - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents