Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 04/15/1998
• Presented To: The Engineering and Safety Service of the American Insurance Services Group
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Charles N. Jeffress
Engineering and Safety Service of the
American Insurance Services Group
1998 Executive Conference
San Antonio, Texas
April 15, 1998

April 15 is an infamous day in loss control history. Eighty-six years ago today 1,513 lives were lost when the unthinkable occurred. The unsinkable Titanic split apart and plunged with scarcely a ripple to the bottom of the icy Atlantic. The verdict: too few lifeboats, too little attention to safety procedures and too much speed in dangerous waters.

This tragedy captured the world's horrified attention as sailors, socialites, poor immigrants and financial barons perished together. And the movie dramatizing the event has captivated the world again, including the Motion Picture Academy, which awarded the film a record-tying 11 Oscars.

Perhaps more importantly, this great disaster awoke the public consciousness to the need for serious attention to safety at sea. In a similar way, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire less than a year earlier on March 25, 1911, galvanized public opinion on safety in the workplace, resulting in a demand for factory fire codes and child labor laws. That fire took the lives of 146 -- mostly young immigrant woman laboring behind locked sweatshop doors.

These catastrophes proved to be powerful motivators to improve dangerous environments and end hazardous practices. Our job -- yours as loss control executives and mine as head of OSHA -- is to head off such calamities before they happen. As you well know, that is easier said than done.

My most personal experience came with the loss of 25 lives in a poultry plant in Hamlet, North Carolina in 1991. That experience had a galvanizing effect on my dedicating my career to protecting the lives of working Americans.

In fact, it seems like an impossible task. OSHA covers more than 100 million workers at 6 million sites. We can't be everywhere. So what we lack in personnel we must make up for in creativity. We must find innovative ways to serve as catalysts for improving safety and health in the workplace. We must 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. I am committed to following that blueprint as my management plan for OSHA.

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.

But we've recently 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 as the result of a judicial stay. The challenge to CCP brought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will not be resolved until this fall, perhaps not until early next year. So, we've moved to Plan B.

On Monday, we launched our alternative inspection targeting system with comprehensive inspections of companies in 70 cities across the country. The initial inspection pool includes about 3,300 companies in 99 industries with lost workday injury and illness rates higher than the average for their specific industry.

I'll be frank. This approach is second-best. But it's a necessary step. We must protect worker safety and health while we defend CCP -- our common-sense partnership strategy -- in court. We don't want to return to an old-fashioned, traditional enforcement program, but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce suit has left us no choice.

Let me explain why I've been so excited about CCP, and why we're determined to put it in place once we're vindicated in court. The program offers OSHA an excellent vehicle for leveraging our resources-to maximize our impact as employers and employees work together to improve their own workplaces. CCP would give us the impact of 12,000 visits while we actually conduct fewer than 5,000 inspections.

Through CCP, OSHA can direct help to the companies that need it the most. As you know, 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. 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 manufacturing and 14 additional high hazard industries. We identified 12,000+ specific worksites in 400 four-digit SIC codes that had experienced at least twice 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 require 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.

CCP would enable us to reach three times as many employers with the same resources. That makes CCP a triple win. 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 in late February before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman John 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."

We've found approval among insurers as well. We've had letters of encouragement from Schwartz Bros. and Atlantic Charter. And we've been contacted by many disappointed companies that were looking forward to partnership. A number have indicated they would continue with their commitment to improve their safety and health programs -- even though OSHA was forced to renege on its offer.

They won't be sorry. Hundreds of employers with similar high injury and illness rates set up safety and health programs under our partnership 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!

As loss control experts, you know that companies that have established sound safety and health programs and reduced their injuries and illnesses as these have done are the ones you want to insure. And these examples represent only a few of many you 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 said they wanted to try this new approach. But their opportunity to test OSHA's new partnership strategy has been postponed. Unfortunately, we find ourselves going back to the future.

Yet, even as I reassured our potential partners, let me stress to you: We haven't given up. We expect CCP to be affirmed by the court.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way." The CCP issue has been much more contentious than I ever imagined it could be. Nevertheless, I am certain we can find a way to proceed in directing OSHA help to the workplaces that need it most and encouraging employers to establish safety and health programs.

Safety and health programs are the key. I can't say that too many times. And our goal is to encourage 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 recommending safety and health programs to every employer that we contact. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, 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.

We'd welcome your assistance in this area. Could we form a partnership to promote safety and health programs? I'm open to your suggestions. Let's find a way to join forces for the benefit of employers and employees. I like the idea that Atlantic Charter was considering for its clients who opted to participate in CCP -- a discount rate based on their commitment to institute effective safety and health programs. I'd be delighted to hear other novel strategies.

Meanwhile, we are developing a safety and health program standard. That is one of my top standard-setting priorities. I think I've made the case today for safety and health programs. But let me put it even more plainly. 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 5 key elements: management leadership; employee participation; hazard assessment; hazard prevention and control; and information and training. 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.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and recommendations on this proposal. We need your help and your extensive experience to develop the best possible standard. Your companies for years have been pushing employers to adopt aggressive loss control programs. You obviously have some experience and some data that show that such programs make a difference. We cannot adopt a rule without a specific showing that the proposed rule will result in injury and illness reduction, and that's where we need your help.

What information do you have that safety and health programs work? What incentives do you provide to companies that adopt positive programs? Why do you promote loss control programs? What evidence can you point to, in injuries avoided or costs saved, that shows that such programs work? We will need the answers to those questions, and we will need them in the record of our rulemaking. I urge you and your companies to be active participants in the rulemaking and to provide the evidence we need to justify proceeding with a rule. We cannot do it without you.

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. And you know these numbers better than I do!

As you know, Congress has prohibited us from issuing a proposal before October 1, 1998. However, we can research 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. Some of you were there. Notes from those meetings have been posted on our ergonomics web page. And we will have a draft proposal to share with stakeholders at meetings the first week of June in Portland and Kansas City.

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:

1. Emphasize cooperation in achieving our goals;

2. Focus OSHA's efforts where our resources are needed most; and

3. 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 you and your clients towards this 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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