Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 11/12/1997
• Presented To: OSHA employees at the Frances Perkins Building
• Speaker: Jeffress, Charles N.
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Remarks of Charles N. Jeffress
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
Swearing-In Ceremony
Washington, DC

November 12, 1997

Thank you, Secretary Herman. I'm honored to be here and to be part of your team. I view it as a personal mission to be involved in saving lives and preventing injuries and illnesses. I'm proud to be associated with you, with President Clinton and Vice President Gore in this endeavor.

DeMill Watt, a friend and Congressman from North Carolina, who has supported us for years and who now is helping all of us in Washington protect American workers, thank you for coming. And thanks, of course, to Senator Kennedy, an advocate for working people without equal in this country and a true champion of worker protections. I'm very grateful for his participation today and his support for me.

And I can't go on without saying a word about Harry Payne, my former boss. Harry is the one who really deserves the credit for gaining support of the public in North Carolina. Harry, thank you both for giving me the opportunity to come to Washington and for creating the environment that enabled us to succeed in North Carolina.

I want to also acknowledge employers and employees in North Carolina. There are 180,000 workplaces in North Carolina. Employees and employers, working together in those 180,000 workplaces, brought injury rates down by 20 percent over the past four or five years. You taught me something about the possibilities and the power of government regulation. You also taught me about the limits of it. Regulators have a responsibility to set standards and to ensure that folks meet standards, but we know that the best way to achieve our goal is to work together and cooperate. And a special thanks to my staff from North Carolina. A more committed group of folks I couldn't ask for. Together, we helped workers come home safely at night and helped employers reduce their injury and illness rates.

Thanks also to Greg Watchman who has served as acting assistant secretary for OSHA for nearly a year now and who has provided leadership to this organization in the interim.

My deepest thanks go to the folks who instilled in me a sense of public service, my parents. My Dad worked for DuPont for thirty years. A lot of what I know and a lot of my commitment to workplace safety came from him. My mother's commitment to public service and her commitment to service to the Lord has inspired me and guided me in my career. Thank you both.

As I officially take office, I pledge to continue the tradition we established in North Carolina of cooperation and communication among business and labor and OSHA. To the employers here and around the country who want to work with us to create safer workplaces, we will offer cooperation and consultation; we will offer education and training; and we will offer our best advice and our best judgment to you in reducing your risk of accidents. You don't want people hurt. We don't want them hurt. We share the same mission.

But lest there be any doubt about it, let me also promise that we will use our enforcement authority to motivate employers, to discourage unsafe behaviors. I make no apology for having a tough enforcement program. We hold high the value of human life, and at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration we will insist that safety and health is a priority for business and labor throughout this country.

I pledge to continue focusing federal OSHA enforcement where it is most needed. We will concentrate on workplaces with the highest rates of accidents. Employers take notice: if you have a high rate of accidents, if a lot of your employees are being hurt on the job, OSHA will be coming to visit. Our goal is to send compliance officers where they're most needed to achieve that objective of reducing injuries and illnesses. That's the yardstick for measuring OSHA and business and labor. We can all win if we can reduce those injuries and illnesses, and that is our measure for ourselves.

The strategic plan that we have just adopted in OSHA in response to the Government Performance and Results Act sets out our goals very clearly. We want to reduce injuries and illnesses in five selected industries by 20 percent in this country over the next five years. We cannot do it alone. OSHA is not the one that makes changes in the workplace. We have to motivate employers and employees to make the changes. If you succeed, as business and labor, in reducing injuries and illnesses, we succeed as well.

We've got to go beyond enforcing rules and give labor and management our best advice on how we can achieve, a safer workplace, a healthier workplace, a place where folks go home safe at night. They deserve no less for their tax dollars than our best advice. We're not getting paid simply to enforce rules. We're getting paid to achieve the purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which is to reduce injuries and illnesses in this country. We've got to take a much broader view than rule enforcement and look at how we can help employers and labor unions to improve their safety and health programs, to create an environment where few people get hurt.

It is the actions of employers and employees at the work site, not our speeches in Washington, that will help people achieve that goal. It's the actions of our federal staff and our state partners when they visit those workplaces that will result in changed behavior where needed. What I do here, what Secretary Herman does here, what the staff in Washington does here is to support the people actually in the trenches, out in the workplaces. And I pledge to you my best efforts to support you all.

I want to affirm the Cooperative Compliance Programs. We will offer employers assistance if they ask. If they don't ask, we'll offer them compliance and enforcement. But we will focus our efforts where they're most needed to reduce injuries and illnesses.

Cooperative Compliance Programs were born of OSHA's reinvention, thanks to the leadership of former assistant secretary Joe Dear. I want to salute Joe's leadership and pledge to continue the kind of reinvention he started, to continue the unique programs, the unique partnerships, the local initiatives, the new way of doing business, the new OSHA, that he began.

I think OSHA is going in the right direction. We're going to continue to build upon that. We are going to seek cooperation in achieving our goals, focus our efforts wherever resources are most needed, and measure our success by the common yardstick of reduced injuries and illnesses among American workers. I look forward to working with you all toward that end.
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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