As Prepared for Delivery
Charles N. Jeffress
American Bar Association
Section of Labor and Employment Law
1998 Midwinter Meeting
Santa Barbara, California
March 11, 1998
- Abraham Lincoln once said, "Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way."
- OSHA's job is to find the way to reduce injuries and illnesses in American workplaces. At first, it seems like an impossible task. We cover more than 100 million workers at 6 million sites. Since we can't be everywhere, we must serve as catalysts for improving safety and health in the workplace, to motivate others to be aggressive about protecting workers, even if they never see an OSHA inspector.
- Through the reinvention efforts of Joe Dear, supported by President Clinton and Vice President Gore, OSHA has embraced the idea that it's time to change ourselves. We know we need to operate differently to make a greater impact on workplace safety and health. And we are doing that.
- We now have a specific plan to focus our efforts-a five year strategic plan to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. That is the blueprint we will be following.
- The plan is at present a federal plan. We are asking this year that states that run their own OSHA programs to develop state strategic plans that also target injury and illness reductions. I'm sure Paula will talk more about this later today.
- I am enthusiastic about OSHA's plan because we have zeroed in on the bottom line -- preventing injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace -- rather than on counting activities. Yes, we'll still take note of how many inspections we do, how many consultations employers receive and how many standards we issue. Activities are important, but what really matters are results.
- And the results we're looking for are fewer injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Everything we do is pointed toward that overarching and underlying objective. Our plan sets three broad goals, all designed to prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job.
- Those goals are to:
- Improve workplace safety and health for all workers as evidenced by fewer hazards, reduced exposures, and fewer injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
- Change workplace culture to increase employer awareness of, commitment to, and involvement in safety and health, and
- Secure public confidence through excellence in the development and delivery of OSHA's programs and services.
- To reach these goals by 2002, we've planned a full-court press on workplace injuries and illnesses. We will help employers in 100,000 workplaces where we initiate a major intervention to reduce their injury and illness rates by 20 percent over the next five years. We're also striving for a 15-percent reduction in injuries and illnesses among five high hazard industries-food processing, nursing homes, shipyards, logging and construction. And we're seeking a 15-percent reduction in three specific injuries and illnesses-silicosis, amputations and lead poisoning.
- Perhaps even more important than the specific injury and illness targets is our goal of a permanent culture change. We need to make safety and health programs part and parcel of the work environment in America. When we do that, we know we can prevent injuries and illnesses not just for a short period after an OSHA inspection, but on into the future. Safety and health programs keep a good thing going.
- Of course, OSHA is not the only one measuring our progress in reducing injuries and illnesses on the job. Congress is very interested in our efforts as well. And under the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, Congress will be reviewing our strategic plan and our yearly progress toward our goals as part of its appropriations process.
- Two weeks ago, I testified before Congress on the President's request for funding for OSHA for Fiscal Year 1999, which begins this coming October. President Clinton is requesting 33 additional staffers and $8.9 million in additional program funds for OSHA. This, plus inflationary increases, would raise OSHA's funding from $336 million this year to $355 million in FY 99-a 5.5 percent raise. That increase helps us stay on track to meet our goals.
- Yet even as we're moving forward on funding, we've taken a few steps backward. As you all know, a critical component of our efforts to reduce injuries and illnesses is our new Cooperative Compliance Program. In CCP, OSHA has developed an innovative and creative strategy that will benefit employers, employees and taxpayers.
- Unfortunately, CCP is on hold right now. Since CCP represents our best efforts to use common sense in directing our enforcement efforts and getting the most impact for the taxpayers dollar, I'm a bit frustrated at the moment. I'm reminded of J.P. Morgan's comment, "Well, I don't know as I want a lawyer to tell me what I cannot do. I hire him to tell me how to do what I want to do."
- What OSHA wants to do is leverage its resources-maximize its impact. We want the impact of 12,000 visits while conducting fewer than 3,500 inspections. CCP represents a fresh approach to our resource problems and to the need to protect workers in our country's most hazardous workplaces.
- CCP would direct OSHA help to the companies that need it the most. In the past, we used Bureau of Labor Statistics data and identified high hazard industries. That was a good start. But we've known for a long time that we needed to do better. Before now, we essentially held a lottery, and a small percent of employers in high hazard industries won an inspection. The problem, of course, was that we didn't know which specific employers really needed our help.
- OSHA's data initiative changed all that. Last year, we surveyed 80,000 employers in 20 manufacturing industries and 14 additional high hazard industries. We identified 12,000+ specific worksites in federal OSHA states that had experienced double or more the average rate of injuries and illnesses. Those are the businesses we invited to join CCP. Because that's where we're needed.
- To help those employers reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace we could just inspect their workplaces, find violations and force employers to fix them. But CCP represents a more cooperative approach-helping employers set up safety and health programs and encouraging them to find and fix their own problems. Employers who take their commitment seriously generally see their injury rates and their workers compensation rates fall. Then instead of a primary enforcement method, OSHA inspections become a double-check that employers are following through on their promises. And we need fewer of them.
- That makes CCP a triple win. CCP would enable us to accomplish three times as much with the same resources. It is a triple win in another way as well -- because employers, employees and OSHA all benefit.
- Further, CCP has enjoyed bipartisan support on the Hill. When I testified two weeks ago before the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health & Human Services and Educational Appropriations, Congressman John Edward Porter from Illinois, who chairs the subcommittee indicated his support for the program. He told me, "...perhaps I'm missing something...I find it rather strange that when you are doing exactly what everybody says they want you to do, you're being challenged in court by one of the people who I think would benefit from it."
- Since the D.C. Court of Appeals has not agreed to expedited hearings, the program in essence will probably be delayed at least until FY 99. That makes no sense because this is a program that helps everyone. The organizations challenging the CCP have done no favor for employers who are experiencing high rates of injuries and high workers compensation claims. They do not represent the many employers who have called us asking if they could continue the partnership despite the stay.
- Delaying CCP does not benefit the employers who've worked hard to protect their workers -- and have exemplary injury/illness records to prove it. And it doesn't benefit employers who could do better in preventing accidents on the job using OSHA technical assistance and guidance to establish safety and health programs. The suit certainly doesn't benefit workers in high hazard workplaces with high injuries and illnesses. They need their employers to focus attention on hazards rather than lawsuits.
- I know that CCP is a sound, solid and sensible way to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. So do hundreds of employers who had the chance to try out this partnership approach during our pilot projects. They racked up some incredible results.
- A pre-stressed concrete manufacturer with 10 sites in Wisconsin and Illinois reduced injuries by more than 50 percent the first year and cut its workers compensation costs by 75 percent over 21 months.
- A footwear manufacturer in the same program saved $516 per employee in workers compensation costs when the company cut its lost work day injury rate by nearly 65 percent.
- A manufacturer participating in Dakota First cut workers compensation premiums by nearly $130,000 -- in only one year following adoption of its safety program.
- A manufactured housing employer with 17 sites nationwide reduced lost workdays by 60 percent, their compensation costs by 70 percent, while at the same time increasing production by 40 percent! These examples represent only a few of many we could cite.
- The 12,000+ employers we invited to join CCP also recognized the program as a good deal. Eighty-seven percent of them signed up -- more than 10,000 employers have indicated their desire to try this new approach. But their opportunity to try OSHAs new partnership strategy has been postponed. They and their employees remain in limbo until the judicial challenge is resolved.
- CCP will work because of its emphasis on safety and health programs. I believe the most helpful thing OSHA can do for workers at all companies is to encourage their employers to work with them to avoid injuries and illnesses through effective safety and health programs.
- That is why I see permanent culture change as another critical element of OSHAs strategic plan. Safety and health programs must become part and parcel of the work environment throughout the U.S. Our goal calls for at least half the employers we visit for inspections -- and states see for consultations -- to implement or improve their safety and health programs.
- That means we will be encouraging every employer that we contact to set up a safety and health program. Of course, there are many more employers than we could ever visit. So we will be actively looking for ways to reach the employers we don't visit to advise them to take advantage of this premier tool for reducing injuries and illnesses in their workplaces.
- First and foremost, we are developing a safety and health program standard. That is one of my top standard-setting priorities. Before I leave office, I want an effective safety and health program to become a fundamental responsibility of every employer in the country.
- Our proposed safety and health program standard will incorporate 6 key elements: management leadership; employee participation; hazard assessment; hazard prevention and control; information and training; and program evaluation. And it will be flexible, with appropriate expectations for companies of different sizes in different industries. We hope to have a proposal out for comment later this year.
- Another issue that concerns me greatly is musculoskeletal disorders. Developing an ergonomics standard is also a top priority. I think we need a standard. And I think we can put one together that will reduce pain and disability, without costing employers an arm and a leg.
- Nearly one of every three illnesses and lost-time injuries in 1995 resulted from overexertion or repetitive motion. That's more than 642,000 cases.
- The financial cost is staggering-one of every three dollars in workers compensation costs. That's $20 billion in direct costs. Indirect costs could add as much as $100 billion more.
- As you know, Congress has prohibited us from issuing a proposal before October 1, 1998. However, we can develop one, and we are doing that. We're planning a program-oriented standard, based on sound ergonomic principles and focused on serious problems for which effective solutions can be devised.
- We held a series of stakeholder meetings in Washington in early February to share our preliminary thinking with business, labor and those in the safety and health field. Notes from those meetings should be posted on our ergonomics web page shortly. And we hope to have a draft proposal to share with stakeholders at another meeting in June.
- At the same time, inspections remain an important part of OSHA's strategy for addressing ergonomic problems. During inspections, we're citing recognized serious hazards under the OSHA general duty clause. Ergonomic risks, of course, are recognized hazards in many industries. Citing employers under the general duty clause is not a new policy. OSHA has been citing employers for failure to address ergonomic risks for more than 10 years.
- OSHA is committed to leading the world in occupational safety and health. We are going to train our own personnel and provide education and assistance to employers and employees to accomplish that aim. My personal commitment is to:
- Emphasize cooperation in achieving our goals;
- Focus OSHA's efforts where our resources are needed most; and
- Measure our success by the common yardstick of reduced injuries and illnesses to American workers.
- Even though our task appears to be impossible, we have no intention of giving up, no intention of slacking off. I like that old saying, "The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."
- We've set our sights on workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. And OSHA will not be deterred by roadblocks, setbacks or other obstacles. We will accomplish our goal, and we want to work in partnership with your clients towards this end.