Charles N. Jeffress
27th Annual Safety Conference
Des Moines, Iowa
November 6, 1998
- I am delighted to join you in Iowa for the 27th Annual Governor's Safety Conference.
- I commend you for your dedication to safety and your interest in professional growth. I
encourage you to take full advantage of the many courses, seminars and other learning
opportunities available to you here.
- Let me share some good news. OSHA and Iowa are making a difference in the
workplace. Since OSHA was created and you began holding these conferences 27 years
ago, workplace fatalities have been cut in half. Occupational injury and illness rates have
been declining for the past five years. In 1996, they dropped to the lowest level since the
U.S. began collecting this information. That's the good news for us and state partners
like Iowa. And it is even better news for the American worker.
- 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.
- Together federal and state OSHA programs like IOSHA have 2,000 inspectors to cover
more than 100 million workers at 6 million sites.
That's one inspector for every 3,000 worksites and every 50,000 employees.
Specifically, Iowa has on board a total of 23 inspectors to cover its 1.5 million public and
private sector workers.
- That's why we can't depend on inspections alone to achieve our mission of protecting
workers. At a rate of roughly 90,000 inspections per year, we'd visit each worksite once
every 66 years!
- If we want to further reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace, we need to find
additional strategies that can succeed. 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.
- For many years, our emphasis in government has been on counting activities. With the
Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, we have zeroed in on results. To
move us in the right direction, federal agencies have developed strategic plans. Federal
OSHA's five-year strategic plan includes three specific objectives: (1) to reduce
workplace injuries and illnesses, (2) to change workplace culture to incorporate a focus
on safety and (3) to increase public confidence in our efforts to achieve our mission.
- We have also asked our state partners, like IOSHA, to reflect on their missions and to
adopt their own strategic plans.
In early October, Iowa submitted a comprehensive and detailed plan-one of the better
plans. You're headed in the right direction in the Hawkeye state. I look forward to
charting your progress toward your goals and seeing the benefits for Iowa employers and
- As we adopt and refine strategic plans, we need to "think outside the box." OSHA was
conceived primarily as a standard-setting and enforcement agency. But in the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress specifically directed the agency to
encourage employers and employees in their efforts to reduce hazards and to institute
safety and health programs.
- Training, education, outreach-these are approaches that could help close the gap between
our goals and our resources. Joint efforts focusing on training and outreach are critical
for expanding our impact on safety and health in the workplace. Most people want to do
the right thing. OSHA and IOSHA can help them learn what they need to do to protect
their employees and prosper financially as well.
- We are also seeking to expand our impact through partnership programs. As we move
into the 21st Century, we want to be ahead of the curve. The key to getting ahead is
finding others who are committed to traveling the same road. Our formula for success
- Next week, OSHA will be holding a conference in Washington to highlight unique
partnerships we have put together with various groups around 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 and
HomeSafe in Denver. 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.
- The Cowtown project, which began three years ago, covers 27 sites in three high hazard
industry sectors-meat processing, iron and steel foundries and motor vehicle and
accessory manufacture. Over the first two years of the project, participants self-identified
and corrected more than 600 hazards-and experienced 420 fewer on-the-job injuries,
saving more than $2 million in workers' comp costs.
- HomeSafe in our Denver region pairs residential homebuilders and OSHA.
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
- It would be great to see a special partnership program in Iowa. Use your creativity to find
a unique way to address the safety and health concerns that are most important here in
- Our experience with special cooperative ventures and with our premier partnership-the
Voluntary Protection Program -- has been overwhelmingly positive. Today nearly 400
workplaces fly the Star flag that marks them as VPP sites. Together VPP sites in more
than 130 industries are saving $120 million each year because their injury rates are 60
percent below the average for their industry.
- VPP works for small and large companies alike. Three sites in Iowa participate: Signode
PSM Operations in West Union, Monsanto in Muscatine and PCS Phosphate in Buffalo.
I applaud these workplaces for their outstanding efforts and achievements. Thank you for
serving as models for your industries and for other companies in Iowa.
- OSHA also has tried some joint efforts with companies on the other end of the scale, who
aren't doing as well. We said: Set up a safety and health program and work with us.
Watch your injuries and illnesses go down. Save money. Improve employee morale.
Cut employee turnover. Those who participated in our pilot projects succeeded. They
learned for themselves that safety pays.
- This kind of partnership makes sense. It extends federal and state resources. It focuses
on those employers who most need help. It offers employers a partnership option. And it
sets up an ongoing mechanism to address safety and health concerns in participating
workplaces. And it is a far better investment of scarce tax dollars than sending out
OSHA inspectors at random to look for violations. I know IOSHA is considering a
similar program in Iowa.
- The central element in all our partnership programs is an effective safety and health
program. Employers must commit themselves to putting safety first and involving their
workers in finding and fixing hazards. Every business needs an ongoing safety culture
that permeates its work-whether a company produces steel, builds houses or cares for
elderly patients in a nursing home.
- For small businesses one way to get help with workplace safety and health concerns is the
free, on-site consultation program administered by Iowa Division of Labor Services. Last
year about 150 businesses in Iowa received help through this program. More and more,
consultation programs are emphasizing the importance of safety and health programs and
helping small businesses establish or improve these programs.
- Safety and health programs must become a top priority for all businesses. Before I finish
my term as the head of OSHA, I want an effective safety and health program to become a
fundamental responsibility of every employer in the U.S.
That's the only way to ensure ongoing progress in workplace safety and health.
- We are developing a proposed safety and health program requirement that will
incorporate five key elements: management leadership; employee participation; hazard
assessment; hazard prevention and control; and information and training. It will be
flexible, with appropriate expectations for companies of different sizes in different
industries. We have already started the review process for our proposal as required by the
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act. We should have a proposal out
- The challenge for OSHA and IOSHA inspectors is to learn to evaluate safety and health
programs. This represents a different approach to our work than our traditional
inspection approach of simply identifying hazards. Systems analysis is not a technique
we have yet taught our inspectors. It represents a cultural change needed in our approach
to our job comparable to the cultural change in business to make safety and health
programs a high priority for them.
- Another top priority for me is ergonomics. Nearly one-third of all occupational injuries
and illnesses stem from overexertion or repetition. These are disabling, expensive
injuries. They cost our economy as much as $20 billion in direct costs and billions more
in indirect costs.
- In September, the National Academy of Sciences reported to the U.S. Congress that
substantial sound scientific evidence exists linking back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome
and other musculoskeletal disorders to work. NAS confirmed that reducing heavy lifting
and repetitive motion and other biomechanical stresses can lower the risk of injury. Most
importantly, NAS clearly stated that the scientific data show that interventions in the
workplace can prevent development of these disorders.
- And Congress, in this year's budget has removed the two-year-old prohibition on
OSHA's standard setting. As Senator Specter said, there have been enough studies. It's
time for OSHA to move on.
- In developing an ergonomics standard, we plan to focus first on jobs where injuries are
high and solutions are well demonstrated. We have been meeting with stakeholders over
the past 10 months to discuss difficult issues, including the scope of a proposed standard
and appropriate action levels. We know there are significant problems for workers
involved in production operations in manufacturing and manual handling throughout
general industry. We plan to publish a proposal next summer.
- We are also updating our recordkeeping requirements. We want to make our
recordkeeping forms, our definitions of work-related injury and illness and our
instructions much clearer. Accurate data are critical-for OSHA and for employers and
Reviewing workplace injury and illness data helps businesses identify and solve
problems. OSHA also uses the data to target its interventions. We plan to publish new
rules next spring to take effect in the Year 2000.
- Speaking of the Year 2000, the computer problem we know as Y2K also has safety
implications. Computer chips that identify 00 as 1900 rather than 2000 could
malfunction. As businesses gear up to solve their Year 2000 computer problems, safety
and health systems need to be considered as well. Many computer chips embedded in
technical equipment include timing and reporting capabilities. If they are not fixed before
January 1, 2000, they may fail. It's critical that businesses find them and make
corrections to preserve vital safety systems.
- Another critical issue I intend to address during my tenure as Assistant Secretary is our
standards setting process. We need to find ways to speed things up.
- OSHA faces many external constraints, so it is especially important for us to get
interested parties to the table earlier to resolve policy questions. Negotiated rulemaking
offers one possibility. Using international standards or state-OSHA standards as a basis
for proposals offers another. The stakeholder process we are using for the safety and
health programs and ergonomics standards is also proving helpful in developing
standards that will have broader public support.
- As head of OSHA, I'm proud of the progress that has been made in the workplace over
the past 27 years. Fatalities have been cut in half. Sweatshops, dusty mills and hazard-littered construction sites are no longer the norm. More men -- and women -- are coming
home to their families safe and sound at the end of the day. These are achievements in
which we can all take pride.
- At the same time, I know how much more we need to do. We need to speed up our
standard-setting process. We need to move forward with partnerships. We need to
expand our training and education efforts. We need to reach American businesses more
often than once every 66 years.
- And we know we can't do it alone. We welcome your support, encouragement and help
as safety and health professionals. We welcome the partnership of states like Iowa. Join
with us to move ahead of the curve in the next millennium.