Charles N. Jeffress
Printing Industries Association of the Heartland
Kansas City, Missouri
January 26, 1999
- I am delighted to be here in America's heartland to talk with you about something very dear to my heart -- safety and health in the workplace.
- As head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I'm involved in many activities, but I have only one goal. I want every worker to go home whole and healthy every day. Everything I do -- and that we do as a federal agency -- is focused on that one critical objective. I know that's a goal that you and I can agree on.
- We can agree on it because most of you come from small businesses. You know your workers personally. You know their wives and husbands, the names of their kids. Maybe you even employ your kid brother or your niece at your print shop. Whether they're relatives or not, they're family. You care about what happens to these people. You don't want any of them to get hurt. So you want your workplace to be as safe as possible.
- That's a given. Now let me share a secret with you. Safety pays. You really can turn safety to savings. Safety is good business.
- One study estimated that a safety and health program saves $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. That's because injuries and illnesses decline. Workers' comp costs go down. Medical costs decrease. There are other, less quantifiable benefits as well -- reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, higher productivity and increased employee morale.
- Savings and benefits like these make sense even to the most frugal business owner. The patron saint of printers, Benjamin Franklin, often spoke of the need for frugality and the importance of savings: "A penny saved is twopence clear." Of course, he did have a lot to learn about safety. Anyone who'd fly a kite attached to a metal key in a thunderstorm obviously needs a basic safety course!
- The fact that safety pays shouldn't be a secret at all. It should be common knowledge. It's certainly common sense.
- But as Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common." Only 30 percent of employers nationwide have established safety and health programs. Yet every year workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths cost our nation $170 billion. That's money that businesses can save -- and pain workers can avoid.
- The printing industry today faces special challenges. Your industry is undergoing a dramatic change in technology -- moving from analog to digital. And you're engaged in a demanding custom manufacturing business -- with tight deadlines, many variables to control and high pressures. To keep your employees safe, you need a systematic approach to controlling hazards in the workplace -- and that means a safety and health program.
- OSHA has also been undergoing significant changes over the past five years. We must continue to maintain a credible enforcement program to keep everyone honest. But we've made our preference for partnership clear. We're focusing on a user-friendly approach -- helping employers do the right thing.
- We've eliminated 25 percent of the pages OSHA regulations used to take up in the Code of Federal Regulations. We don't have "quotas" for our inspectors. Small businesses with effective safety and health programs and good records are eligible for penalty reductions of up to 95 percent. Also, small businesses now have an advocate on my staff in Washington -- Art DeCoursey, our small business ombudsman.
- We no longer penalize employers who don't have an OSHA poster on the wall -- we give them one! When OSHA receives a complaint about workplace hazards, we often resolve it without an inspection. We simply phone the employer, fax the complaint, then work together to solve the problem. We're also developing a wide variety of materials to assist small businesses in complying with OSHA rules.
- We've changed the way we operate to make a difference where it really counts -- in reducing workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. We've seen some dramatic improvements in workplace safety and health since our agency was created 28 years ago. Fatalities have been cut in half, and injuries and illnesses have been on a downward trend, especially during the past five years. In 1997, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that injury and illness rates had dropped to the lowest level ever tallied, despite a three percent increase in hours worked.
- As I said at the beginning, we have one overarching goal: sending every worker home whole and healthy every day. As w move forward into the next century, we plan to achieve that goal by focusing on five integrated principles: strong enforcement, strategic management, improved rulemaking, creative partnership and expanded outreach and training.
- Enforcement undergirds all of our efforts and lends credibility to our cooperative approaches. We now have injury and illness data on individual firms that permit us to focus on those companies with high rates -- those that most need our help.
- Where we find employers who've ignored safety and health and put their employees in peril, we will not hesitate to propose stiff penalties. The recent case with DeBruce Grain in Haysville, Kansas, is one example. The plant was poorly maintained. That lack of attention to safety resulted in an explosion that cost the lives of seven workers -- and a proposed OSHA penalty of $1.7 million. Archer Daniels Midland in Decatur, Illinois, sent workers into tank cars without protective equipment to guard against hazardous fumes. Fortunately no one died, but the facility was an accident waiting to happen, and the proposed penalty totaled $1.6 million. Tomasco Mulciber, an auto parts manufacturer in Ohio, received a similar penalty last week for unguarded machinery that led to more than 60 crushed fingers.
- High penalties like these are unusual -- and they should be. Certainly no small business would face steep fines like these. But huge penalties remind everyone that safety must come first -- not last.
- Inspections will continue to be an important way to keep everyone on track in fulfilling their obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace. But we need to find additional ways to help employers meet their responsibilities and to leverage OSHA resources.
- We've got to employ strategic management to get results. That means a plan to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities on the job. Our four-year strategic plan establishes specific numerical goals: first, a 20-percent reduction in injuries and illnesses in 100,000 workplaces; second, a 15-percent reduction in injuries and illnesses among five high hazard industriesBfood processing, nursing homes, shipyards, logging and construction; and third, a 15-percent reduction in three specific injuries and illnesses -- silicosis, amputations and lead poisoning.
- Among these priorities, amputations are probably of most concern to printers. Last year, Federal OSHA conducted 156 inspections nationwide in the printing industry. We found nearly 200 violations of lockout/tagout or machine guarding requirements -- problems often associated with amputations. So these are OSHA standards that I know you will want to pay particular attention to. Other problems that require your attention include hazard communication, noise and exposure to hazardous chemicals in solvents and inks.
- I don't expect OSHA's goals to be easy to achieve. But we must strategically manage our efforts and measure our success by the same yardstick with which we measure employers: fewer injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Our interventions such as inspections and free consultations must zero in on those who most need our help to improve.
- That brings us to the third pillar of OSHA's strategy for success: improved rulemaking. We need rules that protect workers. Rules that get updated more often than once every 30 years. Rules that direct employers and employees to ever-safer performance. Rules written in plain language so everyone can understand what to do.
- I want to get rules out more quickly as well. 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. I am also establishing a team approach to the standards writing process to make it flow more smoothly within OSHA.
- New OSHA rules will emphasize outcomes and results rather than specific requirements. We need rules that provide ongoing protection in a constantly changing work environment. OSHA standards must offer flexibility to enable employers to continue to reduce hazards and avoid injury and illness as the workplace evolves.
- We're looking to program-style standards to meet this challenge. My top priority is completing a rule requiring employers to adopt safety and health programs. 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. I'm sure that's no surprise.
- You won't be surprised at the components in our proposal, either. That's because they address the same areas covered in the comprehensive safety and health program developed by the Printing Industries Association of the Heartland and featured in the December issue of American Printer. Those of you who've instituted a safety and health program modeled on this approach will already be in compliance with the new rule. Our proposal includes a grandfather clause for effective safety and health programs already in place. So you needn't wait for an OSHA rule or worry that what you do today will need to be completely revamped. But let me caution you: Don't just take that program and put it on your shelf! We expect more than lip service to this program.
- If you'd like to take a look at our current thinking on safety and health programs, you can visit OSHA's website at www.osha.gov and take a look at an early draft. This is the material we shared with a panel of small businesses -- including a printer, by the way -- last fall. We plan to issue a formal proposal for public comment this summer.
- In addition to the proposed safety and health program rule, we plan to publish an ergonomics proposal in late summer. Nearly every industry needs to address ergonomics. More than one-third of all occupational injuries and illnesses stem from overexertion or repetition -- 600,000 each year. But we have a grip on ways to reduce the $20 billion burden these injuries add to U.S. workers' comp costs each year. We can also slice indirect costs that add up to as much as $100 billion.
- Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are preventable. The National Academy of Sciences found compelling evidence that interventions can avert disabling injuries. No one should think of MSDs as just another cost of doing business -- for companies or workers.
- The keys to success are simple: reduce repeated motions, forceful hand exertions, prolonged bending or working above shoulder height. Eliminate vibration. Rely on equipment -- not backs -- for heavy or repetitive lifting. Provide "micro" breaks to allow muscles to recover.
- In developing an ergonomics proposal, OSHA is focusing first on jobs where injuries are high and solutions are well demonstrated. We have been meeting with stakeholders over the past year 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 will also expect employers who have employees who have suffered injuries to address their ergonomic hazards.
- In preparation for publishing a formal proposal next summer, we are now beginning the review process, including seeking comments from a panel of small businesses. A draft of our proposal will soon be available on OSHA's website on the ergonomics page.
- Another aspect of OSHA's strategy for reducing workplace injuries and illnesses is creative partnerships. Last November, we held a one-day conference to spotlight some of these special partnerships such as the Cowtown project in Fort Worth, HomeSafe in Denver and the Roofers partnership in the Chicago area. In each of these cases, we have worked with an organization whose membership has agreed to work cooperatively with OSHA to put safety and health programs in place and to track the success of these programs.
- We also have a partnership with the Printing & Imaging Association of Texas called "Safety First" that involves 29 companies and about 600 employees. This group has worked with OSHA to develop a safety and health program that addresses the most frequently violated OSHA standards for your industry. Perhaps you would be interested in working with us on a partnership like this.
- Our experience with special cooperative ventures and with our premier partnership -- the Voluntary Protection Program -- has been overwhelmingly positive. These programs are making a difference in the workplace. Today nearly 500 workplaces are VPP sites and more than 400 fly the Star flag -- demonstrating their superior performance. Together VPP sites in more than 180 industries are saving almost $135 million each year because their injury rates are nearly 60 percent below the average for their industries. Four of those VPP sites are in the printing industry.
- The good news is that I've just signed the approval letter for a fifth site -- INX International Ink Company in Kansas City. INX is joining OSHA's VPP Merit program. My congratulations to Keith Kay, plant manager; and to Gary Reniker, corporate safety director; Dave Waller, the general manger; and Tom Moore, regional sales manager. And my thanks to Don Delinger, the OSHA regional VPP manager here in Kansas City. Companies like INX lead the way and serve as models for others in PIA and companies in other industries in the Kansas City area.
- OSHA also has tried some joint efforts with companies on the other end of the scale, who aren't doing as well, beginning with Maine 200. 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.
- We had hoped to expand this approach nationwide through our Cooperative Compliance Program. Because of legal challenges that are still unresolved that hasn't worked out. But we remain committed to partnership and creative joint ventures.
- Finally, we want to expand OSHA's outreach and training. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 specifically directs OSHA to encourage employers and employees in their efforts to reduce hazards and to institute and perfect safety and health programs. This is a mandate we need to take seriously to assist employers and employees in their efforts to create a safe and healthful working environment.
- One of the ways we do that is through programs such as the Susan Harwood training grants. PIA was awarded one of these grants for its PrintGuard program. I want to applaud Jim Oldebeken and his staff here at PIA for their creativity and innovation in developing PrintGuard. You've worked in partnership with Chuck Adkins in OSHA's regional office. You've led the way for others in your industry. You've taken the high road, determined to protect your workers because it's the right thing to do and because it's good business as well.
- As you all know, printing is not a high hazard business. Your companies are not likely to appear at the top of OSHA's inspection targeting lists. In fact, in Fiscal Year 1998, OSHA conducted fewer than a dozen inspections of printers in Kansas and Missouri -- and found fewer than 20 violations of safety and health standards.
- Yet, more than half your membership has taken advantage of the safety training available through the association. I challenge the rest of you: Don't delay. Learn more about safety at this conference. And then make that call you've been promising yourself you would -- and sign up to get help improving or establishing a safety and health program at your business. The cost is low, and the benefits are high.
- I also encourage you to avail yourself of OSHA's help. We have publications and videos and an extensive Internet site. You might want to try one of the 10 interactive software "advisors" on our website. One of the newest is "Hazard Awareness." You type in your SIC code and the program leads you through a series of questions to help identify potential hazards for your specific industry. I tried this myself -- for the printing industry -- and found it to be very useful. Our "Safety Pays" module helps you calculate just how much an injury or illness costs your business.
- As head of OSHA, I'm proud of the progress that has been made in the workplace over the past 27 years. At the same time, I know how much more we need to do.
- We need to increase the downward trend for workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. We need to improve our standard-setting process and move forward with partnerships. We need to expand our training and education efforts.
- That's the agenda -- and the challenge. I welcome the partnership of PIA members in meeting our primary goal: sending every worker home whole and healthy every day.