Charles N. Jeffress
Organization Resources Counselors
Winter Safety and Health Meeting
February 3, 1999
- I have always thought that OSHA's success depends greatly upon the partnership we
build with the safety and health community. That community extends from the plant
nurse to the safety consultant to the medical director to the human resource manager who
sometimes serves as the safety expert by default.
- But as safety and health professionals at major U.S. and multinational companies, you
represent the leadership of the safety and health community. And we need you.
- We want to accomplish the impossible. We want every worker to go home whole and
healthy every day. To do that requires the full partnership of everyone in the safety and
health community -- and most especially the leaders in that community. We know that
you share our goal of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.
- It's a goal that makes bottom line sense. The fact that safety pays is no secret to anyone
in this room. It's also common sense.
- But as Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common." Only 30 percent of employers
nationwide have established safety and health programs. I know I'm preaching to the
choir here, but the fact remains that we have a lot of mission work to do to spread this
- I appreciate all the help you have given to OSHA and to others in your industries and in
your communities. But I don't want to lose sight of the fact that we still have a long way
to go. 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.
- As we 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. I want to touch
briefly on each of these, but spend most of the time we have together discussing the plans
I've mapped out to improve OSHA rulemaking.
- As you know, enforcement underpins all of our efforts and lends credibility to our
cooperative approaches. Our data-driven system allows us to focus our resources where
they are needed most -- those workplaces with the highest injury and illness rates.
- In 1998, we again collected injury and illness data from about 80,000 establishments. We
are examining this data and will be developing a new targeting program similar to the
Interim Targeting Program that we will put into effect later this year. We are also
revising our silica national emphasis program and expanding the lead in construction
program to general industry to increase worker protection against these hazards.
- We've got to employ strategic management to get results. I know we've talked about
this before. 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 industries -- food processing,
nursing homes, shipyards, logging and construction; and third, a 15-percent reduction in
three specific injuries and illnesses -- silicosis, amputations and lead poisoning.
- Next week, the OSHA senior staff are gathering for a special retreat to focus on
teamwork and continuing to effectively implement our strategic plan. We'll be
identifying links between the strategic plan and our day-to-day work. We're also
beginning a monthly internal report that integrates our traditional enforcement indicators
with strategic plan measures.
- Another part of our strategy is creative partnerships. Some of you may have
attended our partnership conference last November, which spotlighted some special partnerships
as well as our Voluntary Protection Program. The foundation for all these partnerships,
of course, is an effective safety and health program.
- We are continuing to explore opportunities to work cooperatively with employers to
reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. We're trying vertical partnerships, like the
one we have with ConAgra -- establishing effective safety and health programs in every
plant they own. We also have industry-specific partnerships such as SESAC for steel
erectors in Colorado and the Roofing Industry Partnership for contractors in Ohio, Illinois
and Wisconsin. And we have cross-cutting partnerships such as the Cowtown project,
which covers 27 Fort Worth-area sites in three high hazard industry sectors -- meat
processing, iron and steel foundries and motor vehicle and accessory manufacture.
- We're open to any reasonable suggestions for partnerships that can lead to fewer injuries,
illnesses and deaths in the workplace. So, if you've got an idea, I hope you'll share it
with us. All our regions are being encouraged to pursue partnership arrangements.
- We also 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.
- I am delighted to report to you that President Clinton has requested an additional $12
million in the budget for 2000 announced on Monday to expand training, information and
technical assistance to employers and employees. This includes outreach staff in every
area office as well as an increase of $3.5 million for the Susan Harwood Training Grant
Program and $700,000 for OSHA's expert advisor software. We are planning extensive
outreach campaigns for major new rules such as recordkeeping, safety and health
programs and ergonomics.
- Let's take a look now at 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 simply enough for everyone to
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 rules is also proving
helpful in developing standards that will have broader public support.
- However, I think there is much that we can do within OSHA to improve our rulemaking
process. I am setting up a new structure within the agency to help things flow more
smoothly. I see this as a pilot project to run for six months. At that point, we'll re-evaluate.
If this system works, we'll make it permanent.
- An internal critique of our rulemaking process identified a number of problems. No one
person was in charge. We didn't have clear direction. We lacked accountability. We
missed deadlines. Employee morale was poor. We had too many levels of review. Our
policies were inconsistent.
- The solution is to reinvent the process, consolidating rulemaking operations under one
experienced manager, accountable directly to me. That manager is Marthe Kent. She
will be responsible for development of all safety and health standards -- except for
construction standards. We've established a one-stop shop for construction, with
enforcement, standards interpretation and standards development grouped together. We'll
maintain that plan. But all other standards will come under Marthe. She will be assisted
by Adam Finkel as health executive and two deputies -- a deputy for economics and a
deputy for operations.
- We're going to establish eight to ten cross-functional regulatory teams reporting to
Marthe. Each team will each focus on two or three standards. For example, the team
working on safety and health programs will also handle electric power transmission and
welding, cutting and brazing.
- Each team will include members from all the disciplines we draw on in drafting
standards -- safety specialists or health scientists, economists, risk assessment experts and
attorneys. Each team will call on compliance officers, occupational health nurses or
doctors and others as necessary to complete their work. That will cut down on multiple
reviews. Further, each team will be headed by a strong team leader who can develop the
team into a cohesive working group and move the process forward expeditiously.
- Team leaders will be held accountable for the quality of the standards their team produces
as well as the timeliness. They will hold their team members accountable. I plan to
announce the team leaders the end of this month and give them their assignments.
- I believe this structure makes more sense and will result in a better, more timely product.
We should know in six months.
- Let me give you a brief progress report on the major standards we're developing this
year. First -- and foremost -- safety and health programs. We've completed the SBREFA
small business review process on this rule, and we are sending our draft to OMB this
month. That puts us on target for publication of the proposal this summer.
- You're all familiar with the five components in the proposal -- management leadership;
employee participation; hazard assessment; hazard prevention and control; and
information and training. These are the same elements you have in your programs. The
proposal will include a grandfather clause for existing programs.
- Those who oppose the rule say it's too vague, that compliance officers will have too
much discretion and will be able to cite anyone for anything. These are the same folks
who object to "one-size-fits-all" standards with specific provisions. You can't have it
both ways. OSHA can either promulgate specification standards or program standards. I
think the safety and health program rule is the right way to go.
- It's also the right way to go for ergonomics. And I guess everyone here is aware of our
preliminary efforts on that rule. I do want to stress that the draft that was published last
week is already yesterday's news. It's not the one we will go forward with in the
rulemaking process. You will see a number of changes in the version that we send
forward to the SBREFA panel later this month. That draft -- the official one -- will be
posted on our website for everyone to view.
- What will not change are the basic elements of the rule. Again these are the same
elements that you already have in your own ergonomics programs -- management
leadership and employee participation, hazard awareness and employee training, medical
management, job hazard analysis, hazard prevention and control, program evaluation and
documentation. There will also be a grandfather clause for existing programs.
- Once we complete the small business review, this rule will also go forward to OMB for
review, and we expect to publish it in the Federal Register in September.
Our goal is to take public comments, hold hearings in several cities and publish a final
rule in 2000.
- You've all heard the arguments that there's no science. This ridiculous claim continues
to come forth despite an exhaustive NIOSH review of the literature and the National
Academy of Science findings last September that there is substantial sound scientific
evidence that the greater the exposure to biomechanical stresses on the job, the greater the
likelihood that workers will be injured.
- Then there are the claims that no one knows what works to prevent MSDs. Yet the NAS
found "compelling evidence" that workplace interventions such as reducing heavy lifting,
repetitive motions, excessive force, awkward postures and other stressors can reduce the
risk of injury. Let's get real. There are real injuries occurring among real people at real
workplaces every day. But more importantly, there are real solutions as well. It's time to
do what's right.
- I know you're all interested in recordkeeping also. That rule goes to OMB for review
shortly, and we are on target to publish it in June. The changes take effect next January.
You will find that the final rule is not as ambitious as the proposal -- nor as ambitious as
the comments from many in ORC. We recognize the value of leading indicators as an
addition to the log of injuries and illnesses. But there is not widespread agreement on
what constitutes leading indicators, so we cannot impose this as a requirement. I think
you will be pleased to see clear definitions of work-relatedness, a better explanation of
what constitutes light duty and a much improved and simpler form.
- We have quite a few other standards we hope to get out in 1999 as well -- assigned
protection factors for respirators, clarification of the employer obligation to pay for PPE,
modification of PSM to harmonize with EPA requirements and plain language standards
for dipping and coating operations and exit routes.
- The most difficult standard that demands our attention is PELs -- even more difficult than
safety and health programs and ergonomics. ORC and other organizations have
recommended that we attack our outdated exposure limits by setting up advisory
committees on each chemical or group of chemicals to get consensus before moving
forward with proposed changes. We are working on standards for some chemicals on the
PEL list -- beryllium, glycol ethers, chromium, carbon disulfide, glutaraldehyde,
manganese and trimellitic anhydride. But, as you know, that leaves hundreds of
chemicals with outdated PELs.
- I am committed to a process that includes consultations, a consensus-building process.
But I am concerned that hundreds of chemicals need new limits. With four or five
committees per year -- even if each committee finished its work in one year -- it would take
us 100 years to deal just with the chemicals that we already have limits for. We've got to
find a better way.
- I am interested in working with you. Let's keep talking. For OSHA to keep pace with
the chemicals used in the workplace, we're going to need a different process form the
way we set other standards. And a different process may well require legislative action.
We want something that's better, that's faster, just as you do. Before we're finished, I
suspect that business, labor and OSHA will have to approach Congress for help in
defining -- and paying for -- a different way for promulgating exposure limits for chemical
- The companies you represent are some of the best in the world in safety and health
protection. Individually -- and collectively -- I know I can point to you as excellent role
models. And I often do.
- I value your leadership. I trust your advice. And I depend upon your partnership. I look
forward to working with you as we tackle the challenging issues in occupational safety
and health together.