Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 08/25/1998
• Presented To: Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association Conference
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

Voluntary Protection Programs

Participants Association Conference

"Creating Models for the World"

August 25, 1998


  • What is success? Look around you. Today it's defined right here in the Windy City.
  • To your left and to your right are the individuals who have built world-class models for excellence in workplace safety and health. That's success worth celebrating-and emulating. I applaud you all.
  • Creating a world-class organization begins with doing the right thing. It starts with your own staff. Taking care of employees leads to a concern for customers. Meeting customers' needs produces a better bottom line for the company. And everyone benefits from that.
  • Of course, success is rarely a solo performance. It's usually a joint venture. That's true of virtually every enterprise. And it's true of Voluntary Protection Programs. The key to VPP is partnership.
  • Partnership can take many forms-limited, general, junior, senior, silent, equal, vested. But whatever the form, in every case, the partners have found it more profitable to work together than to go it alone.
  • Participants in VPP know that partnership is not only possible, it's profitable. And you have proof.
  • You just heard Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman talk about the big picture-450 sites in 32 industries saving $120 million each year because their injury rates are 60 percent below the average for their industry. Let's look at the fine print as well.
  • How do you achieve these remarkable savings? Like the commercial, you earn them-one day, one employee at a time. Or perhaps I should say every day, every employee, all the time.
  • The longest running VPP site, a manufacturer with 600 employees, has sustained lost workday case rates 73 percent below average for 15 years-preventing 600 injuries and saving an average of more than $1 million per year in direct and indirect costs.
  • A chemical company member with 1,000 employees kept lost workday injury rates 93 below the average for its industry throughout its 15 years in VPP, preventing 400 injuries and saving more than $10 million.
  • Companies who've joined more recently report similar experiences:
    • a textile mill with only one lost workday injury since 1992 and savings of $1.4 million;
    • a construction company that avoided 2,500 injuries over six years and saved more than $67 million;
    • and a paper products company that cut injuries by 40 percent and workers' comp costs by 80 percent.

  • I could go on and on. I could tell 450 success stories. Your stories-of ingenuity, commitment and excellence. Your experience in creating models of safety and health excellence for the world.
  • Let me tell just one more story. It's about a company that has four sites in the program and two more moving toward VPP membership. One of its sites holds an open house every year for nearby businesses to share information on VPP and the importance of safety and health programs. Through this company's mentoring program, two others have joined VPP. Several more are getting ready to apply. This leader in resource recovery has even been willing to mentor competitors. It's American Ref-Fuel.
  • American Ref-Fuel has given a dirty business a clean name. Producing energy, eliminating pollution and protecting employees in the process has led to world-class status in resource recovery. We're proud to partner with you, Paul.
  • I admit that when I headed the OSHA program in North Carolina, I was initially skeptical about VPP. But Lee Anne kept pushing. When we agreed to try it, we were delighted to find companies committed to doing things the right way. You taught us about what is truly possible in exemplary safety and health programs.
  • To help spread the word, we recently sent a list of VPP sites by SIC Code to our compliance officers throughout the nation. Now they can quickly hand an employer in need of help names of others in their industry who may guide them in achieving a safer worksite.
  • Together VPP sites cover about 320,000 workers in the U.S. There are also workers outside the U.S. who benefit from this program. That's because their employers have decided to apply VPP standards for worker protection to their overseas operations as well as their domestic ones. Truly, you are creating models for the world.
  • VPP sites are good for workers and good for business. They've also been good for OSHA in many, many ways.
  • When we propose standards, we can count on VPP participants to provide thoughtful, insightful comments and useful recommendations. VPP companies have helped us develop our safety and health program proposal. Your association has supported OSHA in targeting and leveraging its resources and in maintaining a balance between enforcement and consultation.
  • VPP sites have served as training grounds for OSHA compliance officers-demonstrating 100 percent fall protection and effective safety and health programs, for example. You show our people how to do it right. Sometimes, it's the first time OSHA compliance officers have actually seen it done right. Then we can point to your success when we work with other companies.
  • Your executive committee has met with me to discuss how OSHA should respond to difficult and changing issues such as the agency's use of companies' internal audits. I appreciate their insights and their commitment of time to help us work through thorny issues.
  • Collectively, you have mentored more than 100 other companies, walking along side them as they develop high quality safety and health programs. So far 26 companies that you have mentored have joined VPP, thanks to your help. Fifty more are currently in the mentoring program. You've also held workshops to assist prospective applicants in preparing their applications. That's a great help.
  • This conference is another excellent example of sharing your expertise. I commend the Association and its board of directors for putting together an outstanding program. You've covered everything from preventing workplace violence to scaffold safety to conducting emergency response drills. There's something for everyone!
  • Some of you have served on OSHA evaluation teams for sites applying to VPP or applying for renewal. As "special government employees," you've supplemented OSHA's resources. More than 80 of you have served as VPP Volunteers. Your participation on VPP evaluation teams has helped us to add about 75 sites to VPP since Greg Watchman spoke to you last year.
  • VPP is, of course, our premier partnership program. There's never been any doubt that those who define excellence make terrific partners. We're proud to share this program with you.
  • We also have outstanding partnerships in local communities throughout the country. Some have received attention in previous years, like Maine 200 and the New Jersey State Police partnership. Others are little known, like the Cowtown project in Fort Worth, HomeSafe in Denver, the poultry project in Georgia, the Roofers partnership here in the Chicago area. The common thread through all these partnerships is the commitment of each organization and participant to work cooperatively with OSHA to implement effective safety and health programs.
  • Because these projects are local, not national, many people are not aware of the cooperative side of OSHA -- particularly people in the nation's capital. We're going to help change that by holding a conference in Washington in November to showcase our special partnerships around the country.
  • We want you in VPP to be a featured part of this conference. And we will invite policy makers, trade association representatives and international union representatives to come listen to the creative, effective partnerships that you and people like you are striking with OSHA to protect people at work from occupational hazards.
  • In addition to partnerships with exemplary workplaces like yours, we also need to find cooperative ways to work with those who have a long way to go to achieve excellence. Our experience with Maine 200, Wisconsin 200 and other pilots proved that partnership with those at the other end of the scale also works. Perhaps even a few of you here today began your partnership with OSHA not as Star participants, but as reluctant Maine 200 partners.
  • Based on these pilots, OSHA developed Cooperative Compliance Programs or CCP, again focusing on partnership. CCP offers 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. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate the support we have received from you as individuals and from the Association as we have sought to move forward with this ground-breaking program.
  • Unfortunately, as you know, CCP is on hold right now as the result of a court order. 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.
  • We were delighted when more than 10,000 sites 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 expressed their disappointment. Quite a few 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.
  • To date, most of OSHA's partnership efforts have stressed establishing effective safety and health programs at individual worksites. Both VPP and CCP are site-based programs.
  • We must continue our emphasis on safety and health programs. They work. We all agree on that. But I believe OSHA needs to expand its opportunities for partnership to include more groups of employers. VPP companies could be of great help in encouraging industry or community-based groups to work with OSHA to formulate such partnerships.
  • We need to reach the vast majority of companies in the middle. They don't have stellar safety and health programs, like VPP sites. They may not have high injury and illness rates, like CCP sites. But they could do better. They could reduce injuries and illnesses among their workers. They could save workers' comp costs. They could reduce turnover and improve employee morale. And they could best accomplish these goals by working together in concert with OSHA.
  • The local and regional partnerships that OSHA has joined differ from VPP and CCP in several important ways. The agreements are made with groups, rather than individual sites. Worksites do not receive inspection exemptions, and all programs include some OSHA inspections for verification that participants are fulfilling their commitments. Measures of success and incentives for participation may vary.
  • The common denominator in all these special partnerships is an effective safety and health program -- including employee involvement. All of our research, all of our experience demonstrates that an organized, ongoing approach is the best way to ensure worker safety. I am committed to ensuring that safety and health programs remain a cornerstone of any partnership OSHA fosters.
  • I would like to see VPP companies and the Association play a strong leadership role in creating new partnerships with OSHA. You are the world-class models of excellence. You demonstrate that partnership with OSHA produces positive results. Help us once again to find new avenues to involve others in keeping their workers safe and healthy.
  • We want you to talk not just to other companies. We want you to share your success with people you encounter at your civic club, your church, the bowling alley and the local Chamber of Commerce.
  • You have proven that safety pays. You have proven that partnership pays. You have also proven yourselves willing to help others meet their goals in workplace safety and health.
  • I applaud your success. I thank you for your help. And I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with each of you.

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 - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents