Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||05/16/1995|
| Presented To:||Stromberg Sheet Metal Works Employees|
| Speaker:||Reich, Robert B.|
When Paul Stromberg founded Stromberg Metal Works in 1940, he probably couldn't have imagined the changes the next 55 years would bring. His company now employs some 250 people -- and many of these men and women own almost half the company's stock. Last year, company revenues topped $21 million. And today, the President and Vice President of the United States are volunteering to work an afternoon shift.
But Mr. Stromberg would have been equally amazed at the larger changes in the economy -- changes that affect every decision his company makes. In an astonishingly short time, the world of standardized mass production and lifetime job security has disappeared. In its place has emerged a new economy -- an economy based ever more on the productive power of human capital.
Our best companies have responded to this fundamental change. They recognize that their success depends on treating workers not as costs to be cut, but as assets to be developed. And one of the most basic -- and most crucial -- ways to treat workers well is to ensure that they are healthy and safe on the job.
In 1989, Stromberg discovered it was paying 28 percent more than the industry average for worker compensation costs. In a business like this, any extra costs make it harder to compete, so Stromberg vowed to do better.
The company launched a comprehensive safety and health program. Supervisors sat down with frontline workers and discussed how to make the workplace safer. The company hired a safety and risk manager, and stepped up its inspections of equipment and job sites. Workers received new incentives for making safety improvements.
But even as Stromberg made progress on the construction side of its business, an OSHA inspection revealed several hazards on the manufacturing side. Now, OSHA could have brought down the hammer. Sometimes it must. But this time, OSHA knew it was dealing with a company trying to do the right thing. And OSHA knew imposing penalties was only a means. The end was safer workplaces.
So OSHA took a more common sense approach. Its inspectors met with Stromberg's safety manager to design a plan that eliminated the hazards without eliminating the profits. And the company provided extra training for workers on how to operate the machinery -- and made spot checks to verify that those precautions were being taken. What happened? Since the new procedures went into effect, not a single worker has had an accident on this equipment.
And remember those skyrocketing workers comp claims? They're now 16 percent below the industry average. And that's not all. In 1989, Stromberg had a lost workday rate because of accidents or injuries of about 340 work days a year. This year, by the end of April, the company had reduced that to only 49 work days -- once again, much better than its competitors. Stromberg, by treating its workers as assets, is thriving. Congratulations.
There's another company in the audience today with a similar story. Masland Industries manufactures automobile products in Carlisle and Lewistown, Pennsylvania. Its Lewistown plant had a high rate of injury that was worrying workers and pushing down profits. So Masland worked with OSHA to modify its equipment and redesign its workstations. And Masland formed a joint committee on worker safety to uncover -- and remedy -- hazards. Today, injuries are way down.
These companies show what happens when companies invest in their workers and protect their safety. They show the progress we can make when OSHA steps in, not as a mindless enforcer but as a savvy problem solver.
One of the guiding forces behind the new OSHA -- behind the entire reinventing government effort -- is the Vice President. Here in Washington, we sometimes refer to reinventing government as "rego."
We get the "re" from reinventing and the "go" from government. But there's another reason why this initiative bears this name. Rearrange the letters of "rego" and they spell "Gore." Ladies and gentlemen, the man whose name is synonymous with reinventing government, the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|