Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 06/15/1998
• Presented To: American Society of Safety Engineers
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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
American Society of Safety Engineers
Safety Summit '98: Global Solutions
for People, Property and the Environment
Seattle, Washington
June 15, 1998

  • Global Solutions-what a great theme for your conference. As safety professionals we know that safety must become as second nature as breathing. It must be fully integrated into the workplace culture. New hires must understand it, and old-timers must give it more than lip service.
  • Your conference, set in the middle of National Safety Month, points us in the right direction by emphasizing professional growth and development. Education, experience and lifelong learning are the components of professionalism. And ASSE has led the way since 1911 in developing safety engineering as a profession. Your 33,000 members offer leadership and guidance to thousands of businesses across the country. You've stressed the importance of advanced training and certification as safety professionals. That's a major contribution toward protecting people, property and the environment.
  • As OSHA moves into the 21st century, we share your commitment to professionalism. We have pledged to show that our safety and health professionals are knowledgeable and competent. We've promised to help our staff continue their professional growth through both classroom and field training.
  • By the year 2000, we want 80 percent of employers and workers who interact with OSHA to rate our staff's professionalism, competence and knowledge as at least satisfactory. That's one of our strategic goals.
  • And let me add a note about my support for our safety inspectors to pursue professional certifications. This year, I will establish a financial incentive for OSHA staff who pursue and achieve the CSP and CIH designations. I encourage others to do the same.
  • We appreciate the support and encouragement that you have given the agency as we pursue excellence and professionalism. One of the ways we reach for that goal is through the OSHA Training Institute, where nearly 4,000 federal and state OSHA staff took one of our 78 courses last year. Through our 12 education centers, an additional 7,300 individuals -- mostly from the private sector--advanced their knowledge of occupational safety and health.
  • Today, OSHA covers more than 100 million workers at 6 million sites. Together with states running their own OSHA programs, we have about 2,000 inspectors or one inspector for every 3,000 worksites and every 50,000 employees. At a rate of roughly 90,000 inspections per year, we'd visit each worksite once every 66 years! Clearly, if workplace safety and health depends upon inspections alone, we're not going to succeed.
  • That's why our focus for the future must be on results rather than activities. We must use our resourcefulness to bridge the gap between our resources and our responsibilities. We must tap the imagination and persuasive powers of our own staff and of others-like yourselves-to meet the challenge of protecting workers. We need to leverage our resources to magnify our results.
  • When we speak of results, less is more. Less tragedy and trauma for workers-fewer injuries, illnesses and fatalities-demonstrates a more effective OSHA.
  • OSHA, working with safety and health professionals like ASSE members, has already had a significant impact. Since the agency was created 27 years ago, workplace fatalities have been cut in half. Occupational injury and illness rates have been declining for the past five years, dropping in 1996 to the lowest level on record.
  • But we need to press on. When nearly 50 American workers are injured every minute of the 40-hour workweek and almost 17 die each day, we must do even better.
  • One of our goals is to 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.

  • But perhaps our most important goal is identical to yours-making safety a way of life. We need to foster a workplace culture that views worker safety and health as an inherent part of production. That means a safety and health program.
  • One of our plans to encourage employers to establish safety and health programs is the Cooperative Compliance Program. CCP is OSHA's strategy to build partnership with employers who most need our intervention. CCP would offer a reduced chance of inspection to employers with high injury and illness rates in exchange for establishing or improving a safety and health program for workers.
  • Unfortunately, as many of you know, 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 and other trade associations will probably not be resolved until early next year. So, we've moved to Plan B.
  • On April 13, we launched our interim inspection targeting system. The initial inspection pool includes about 3,300 companies in 99 high hazard industries with lost workday injury and illness rates higher than the average for their specific industry.
  • So, for the moment, OSHA is headed back to the future. We now have a ground-breaking, traditional inspection program in place. It's a step forward and a step back at the same time.
  • We're moving forward because we now have worksite-specific data to use in targeting our workplace interventions. Last year, we surveyed 80,000 employers in manufacturing and 14 additional high hazard industries. We identified 12,000 specific worksites that had experienced at least twice the average rate of injuries and illnesses. Those are the companies we invited to participate in CCP.
  • We were delighted when more than 10,000 signed up to partner with us. But, because of the lawsuit, we've been forced to take a step back on the promise of partnership and the opportunity to leverage our impact that CCP offered.
  • Despite the lawsuit, I am encouraged by the response of prospective participants when we contacted them to tell them that we were unable to fulfill our promise of partnership at this time. A number who recognized the advantages of partnering with OSHA have expressed their disappointment. Quite a few have indicated they would continue with their commitment to improve their safety and health programs -- even though OSHA was forced to withdraw its offer of partnership.
  • Another partnership has been more successful. Companies that have achieved stellar records-participants in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs-have lots to brag about. Collectively the 338 VPP sites in federal states have lost workday injury averages nearly 60 percent below the averages for their industries.
  • That means that last year they prevented more than 4,400 potential injuries that would have occurred if they had average, rather than superior, safety and health records. Considering both direct and indirect costs, VPP excellence resulted in savings to companies of nearly $120 million. That's the difference effective safety and health programs can make!
  • We're delighted to see VPP membership continuing to increase at a rate of about 25 percent each year. Currently more than 430 worksites have been recognized for their excellence and are serving as models for others in their industries to follow.
  • CCP and VPP protect workers against workplace hazards through partnership. OSHA has also worked with industry-specific partnerships. For example, the Roofing Industry Partnership Program drew together labor, management and government to recognize premier safety contractors in the roofing industry in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Participating contractors who demonstrate outstanding safety and health programs qualify for limited scope inspections and penalty reductions.
  • Another partnership OSHA currently has underway is HomeSafe in our Denver region. Homebuilders who agree to establish a 10-point safety and health program that covers hazards causing serious accidents qualify for a variety of incentives including focused inspections and penalty reductions. The state of Colorado also offers a 5 percent reduction in insurance premiums. HomeSafe began in April and will run for three years. We expect about 300 homebuilders to participate, and we hope to see significant declines in injuries and fatalities in homebuilding in the Denver area as well as cost-savings for builders.
  • Partnerships such as these are an excellent way to strengthen workplace safety and health. But I think we also need some legislative changes in the Occupational Safety and Health Act to improve protection for employees. We need to cover public employees-federal, state and local-in all states, not just the 23 that run their own OSHA programs. It's time that the public sector lived by the same rules as the private sector.
  • Whistleblowers need more protections as well, and we need stiffer criminal penalties-from a misdemeanor to a felony-for employers whose willful conduct causes the death of an employee. It is a disgrace that, under OSHA law, when someone willfully violates a rule, and it results in an employee's death, the penalty is a simple misdemeanor. Surely we value human life more than that.
  • At the same time, there are other ideas floating around that would weaken OSHA. Hippocrates, who wrote the physician's oath, once said, "As to diseases, make a habit of two things-to help, or at least, to do no harm." Members of Congress need to bear that in mind as they examine other OSHA reform and regulatory reform proposals.
  • A number of changes that have been proposed would do harm. A separate peer review process for OSHA standards, for example. And denying OSHA access to company self-audits. This information is useful in guiding investigations and in getting problems fixed. And it gives folks who've acted on audit recommendations an opportunity to clearly demonstrate good faith. At the same time, I'm open to some reasonable limits.
  • And then there's the issue we respectfully disagree on-substituting third party consultations for OSHA enforcement. Private consultants are professionals who provide a very valuable service-both to the companies that employ them and the workers who benefit from their recommendations.
  • However, I see consultants functioning as advisors-offering recommendations-rather than as surrogate inspectors-offering inspection exemptions. If companies could buy protections from OSHA penalties by hiring a consultant, we would have a two-class system, where large employers were never penalized and smaller ones always are. That's not good public policy.
  • Further, while a third-party option might generate some business, I fear it offers no guarantee of the results we all want to see-fewer injuries and illnesses in the workplace. It doesn't make safety a way of life. It makes safety a biennial business proposition. Contact a consultant every two years and get your OSHA penalty exemption.
  • There's a better way to create a safety culture. Consultants can add value-and extend OSHA's resources-by encouraging companies to establish safety and health programs. Ideally, they would develop an ongoing relationship with a client-checking progress, helping manage change, seeking continual improvement. Many ASSE members who are consultants follow this approach. And I believe it will prove more effective in preventing workplace injuries than a visit devoted to simply to helping a client identify immediate problems to circumvent an OSHA inspection.
  • Even though we disagree on this one issue, I want you to know you how very much OSHA appreciates ASSE's faithful, continuing and vocal support in the political arena. You have provided a thorough, authoritative analysis of safety and health issues. You've written to Congress. You've testified. You've encouraged professional development for OSHA staff. You have been a full and welcome participant in the political process. And your fellow safety and health professionals in government are most grateful.
  • There's another safety issue that we all need to address over the next 18 months-and that is Y2K. As businesses gear up to solve their Year 2000 computer problems, safety and health systems need to be considered as well. This may be an area where professional safety engineers can be of particular assistance. Where are all those computer chips with timing and reporting capabilities that are embedded in technical systems? It's critical that businesses find them and make corrections to prevent the failure of critical safety systems.
  • Earlier this year, Business Week reported that Phillips Petroleum experienced a shutdown in a hydrogen sulfide monitor system when the company ran a Y2K test on one of its oil and gas production platforms. Whoever would have thought that a chemical monitoring system might fail because of a Y2K problem? Like Phillips, other businesses need to check for potential Y2K problems while there's still time to fix them.
  • On the regulatory front, as most of you know, OSHA is developing a safety and health program standard. That is one of my top standard-setting priorities. VPP and the pilot programs like Maine 200 that preceded CCP have demonstrated clearly the difference these programs can make. Before I leave office, I want an effective safety and health program to become a fundamental responsibility of every employer in the country. That's OSHA's plan for making safety a way of life.
  • Our proposed safety and health program standard will incorporate five 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. When we do, we look forward to receiving recommendations from ASSE. We welcome the benefit of your experience and expertise in this process.
  • Another top priority for me is promulgating an ergonomics standard. 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.
  • More than one of every five illnesses and lost-time injuries in 1996 resulted from repetitive motion or overexertion. Because these injuries often keep workers off the job longer, they represent a very serious problem. The financial cost is staggering-billions of dollars in direct and indirect costs.
  • OSHA is planning a focused standard under the umbrella of general industry. And in this first phase, we're going to draw the lines narrowly, limiting coverage to those operations, jobs and tasks where there are high rates of work-related MSDs. We will also zero in on situations where successful solutions have been identified.
  • 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 may have participated. Notes from those meetings have been posted on our ergonomics web page. And we plan to meet with stakeholders again next month to discuss our progress.
  • In addition to developing a standard, we are continuing our outreach and education efforts through the regional effective practices conferences. We have three more scheduled this year, and I encourage you to participate in the upcoming sessions.
  • Of course, we have others issues on our plate as well. Who pays for personal protective equipment? What are acceptable permissible exposure limits for air contaminants? Safety incentive programs -- do they work?
  • I've listed for you just a few of the efforts ongoing at the agency. As we look backward, we can see how far we've come. As we look ahead, we can see how far we have to go. So we face the present, challenged by the future, but with confidence stemming from our earlier successes.
  • We haven't arrived, but together with ASSE members and other safety and health professions, we continue moving forward. And we must not stop until every worker goes home whole and healthy every day.

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.


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