Charles N. Jeffress
Southern Association of Workers'
50th Annual Convention
July 6, 1998
- How do you define success? For Steven Spielberg, it's making a summer blockbuster.
For Bill Gates, it's getting Windows 98 loaded onto millions of PCs. For Jana Novotna,
it's winning Wimbledon.
- For those of us who care about occupational safety and health, success is working
ourselves out of a job! We want all workers to do their jobs in safe and healthful
environments. And we want to prevent every injury and illness.
- That may be the impossible dream. But we won't stop trying. The best way to pursue
that dream is by joining forces against our common enemyworkplace injuries and
- I'd like to expand OSHA's efforts to work in partnership with workers' compensation
administrators. I know our successful partnership in North Carolina benefitted both
employers and employees. And I want to thank Howard Bunn, Chairman of the North
Carolina Industrial Commission, for inviting me to join you this year.
- For fifty years, you've been gathering to share ways to better administer workers'
compensation programs. You want to help workers who have been injured recuperate
and return to work. And you want to provide for those whose lives have been forever
changed by a disabling injury or the loss of a family member.
- Our goal is similar. We know what we need to doidentify the hazards that hurt people
and pinpoint the employers with the most problems. Then we need to focus our efforts
on those situations.
- 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 we must concentrate on results rather than activities. We must bridge the gap
between our resources and our responsibilities. We need to leverage our resources to
multiply our results.
- We have experienced some success, and we can build on that foundation. As Pearl Buck
once said, "One faces the future with one's past."
- Since OSHA 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. The numbers and the stories of individuals cross your desk and
mine every day. And they remain devastating. Nearly 50 American workers are injured
every minute of each 40-hour workweek. Almost 17 die each day. We must all do
- Education is one key to success. State workers compensation agencies have excelled in
that area. I know in North Carolina our school for workers and employers offers a model
for cooperation between the OSHA program and the Industrial Commission. I would like
to see OSHA partner with each of you in providing information and training to employers
- At OSHA, we are looking at success in very practical, measurable terms as stated in our
five-year strategic plan. 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 industriesfood processing, nursing homes,
shipyards, logging and construction. And we're seeking a 15-percent reduction in three
specific injuries and illnessessilicosis, amputations and lead poisoning.
But perhaps our most important goal is fostering a workplace culture that views worker safety and health as an inherent part of work.
- That means a safety and health program. Safety and health programs are the critical
difference between employers with high injury rates and those with low rates. In North
Carolina, we only found a few more hazards at sites with high workers' comp claims than
at those with low injury rates. It wasn't the number of hazards that resulted in the higher
rate of injuries; it was the lack of an effective safety and health program. That finding
made me a believer.
- Yoggi Berra is reputed to have said, "If you don't know where you're going, you won't
get there." A safety and health program not only pinpoints the destination, it serves as the
road map for getting there. Every workplace should have one.
- At OSHA we are using every opportunity to encourage employers to establish safety and
health programs. The Cooperative Compliance Program is OSHA's primary 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, 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, inspecting employers
who reported to us high rates of injuries and illnesses. Although not as effective as the
CCP, it is still a major improvement over our old method od random selection.
- The key to CCP, and to our interim targeting program, is site-specific data. Our pilot
projects in Maine and Wisconsin were based on workers' comp data. I have found your
data to be most helpful. But it differs somewhat from state to state. It's not available to
OSHA from every state. And since it meets the unique needs of each state program, it's
not presented the same way from state to state. So, OSHA began its own data initiative.
- 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. More than 10,000 agreed to join us. Once the stay is lifted, we intend to resume
- CCP offers employers with high injury rates an incentive to implement a safety and health
program. But in some ways, it's a stopgap measure. What we really need is a safety and
health program standard. Developing one is my top standard-setting priority.
- 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 the only way to
ensure ongoing progress in workplace safety and health.
- 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.
- 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. These painful, debilitating injuries often require
lengthy recoveries. In 1996, forty percent of workers who developed carpal tunnel
syndrome were off the job for 30 days or longer. The financial cost is staggeringbillions
of dollars in direct and indirect costs. You know these numbers better than I do.
- 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 musculoskeletal disorders. 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. We will
be meeting with stakeholders again in two weeks to explore options for some of the more
difficult issues. If you would like to observe, one meeting will be in Atlanta on July 23.
- Let me stress though that we are still a long way from publishing a proposal in the
Federal Register. The earliest we could publish would be next summer. We still must
draft regulatory text, a preamble to explain the text and then clear the package with the
Department of Labor, perhaps a small business review panel and the Office of
Management and Budget.
- In addition to developing a standard, we are continuing our outreach and education efforts
through a series of the regional effective practices conferences. We have held eight in the
last 10 months, and three more are scheduled this yearincluding one in September in
- As you know, we are also working to revise our recordkeeping rule. We're on target to
publish next spring. Then we will be gearing up for a major education effort during the
last half of 1999 before the rule takes effect in January 2000.
- Of course, not every safety and health issue requires a standard. This spring we issued
recommendations to prevent violence in late night retail establishments. We're
developing guidance on latex allergies. And labor-management agreements can address
some issueslike asphalt paving fumes, for example.
- Another issue that we've begun to examine is safety incentive programs. Do they work?
Are they a sound strategy for behavior modification? Or are they a gimmick to
discourage workers from reporting work-related injuries or illnesses? As you know,
some of these programs reward improved safety practices while others offer premiums for
decreases in the number of injuries and illnesses reported.
- At the request of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health,
we've asked a contractor to review the scientific literature on this issue. We are
reviewing the initial draft report now. We expect to receive a final report in August.
- I think we are seeing changes in how employers and workers are handling return to work
after on-the-job injuries. Instead of remaining home on workers' comp until recovery is
complete, more people are returning to restricted duty. That's good because workers can
collect full pay instead of two-thirds. But we need to watch this trend closely. This
approach can be misused.
- We have made many changes in OSHA to focus on results rather than activities. We
know our success depends upon these changes. There are also other changes I'd like to
seechanges that require Congressional action to amend the Occupational Safety and
- We need to cover public employeesfederal, state and localin all states, not just the 23
that run their own OSHA programs. I value our state partners, and I want to see state
OSHA programs continue. But not every state has chosen to operate one. That leaves
hundreds of thousands of state and local government workers with no one to turn to with
a safety or health problem at their job.
- Whistleblowers need more protections. And we need stiffer criminal penaltiesfrom a
misdemeanor to a felonyfor employers whose willful conduct causes the death of an
- We're moving forward in OSHA. We've put in place programs to measure our progress.
Now we must continue to deliver on our promiseto send every worker home whole and
healthy every day.
- I appreciate your commitment to this goal, and I promise you our cooperation as we work
toward our common objectives.