Charles N. Jeffress
American Trucking Associations
Executive Committee Winter Meeting
February 16, 1999
- There's an old saying-"Don't cross the bridge until you come to it." I would add to that.
When you get there, if there is no bridge, build one.
- I've come here today at your invitation to do a little bridge building. Frequently, we seem
to be on opposite sides of a deep gorge-with no way across.
- But I think that's more illusion than reality. We really have more in common than is
commonly recognized. Take goals, for example.
- You in the trucking industry understand the value of goals-moving the load from point A
to Point B-safely and on time.
- At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we are also goal-driven. As head
of OSHA, 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.
- Safety makes sense in other ways as well. Some folks assume that safety and profitability
are incompatible. Not true! In fact, they go hand in hand. The most profitable
companies know the secret. Safety pays. Safety is good business. It's also common
- But as Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common." Only 30 percent of employers
nationwide have established safety and health programs. If we are going to achieve our
goal of sending every worker home whole and healthy every day, that must change.
- As we move forward into the next century, we plan to achieve that goal by focusing on
four integrated principles-strong enforcement, improved rulemaking, creative partnership
and expanded outreach and training-that support OSHA's strategic plan.
- Enforcement underpins all of our efforts. Together with state OSHA programs, we have
about 2,500 inspectors to cover 6 million worksites and 100 million working Americans.
Targeting our resources to focus on workplaces that really need our attention is critical.
For the last four years, we've been getting injury and illness data from employers in high
hazard industries-including trucking. ATA sued to keep us from getting this information,
but after completing notice and comment rulemaking on the issue, we now receive it.
- When we conduct inspections, we must ensure that we go first to the places where
workers are getting hurt. We must target taxpayers' dollars where they will do the most
good. Those who are doing a good job in preventing injuries and illnesses don't need to
see an OSHA inspector, regardless of the industry they represent. Those who have
problems, we need to visit, and site-specific data enables us to do that.
- Where we find employers who've ignored safety and health and put their employees in
peril, we will not hesitate to propose stiff penalties, and I'm signing off on citations for
more than $100,000 virtually every day. But, it's not the money that counts-it's the
strong message that safety must come first-not last.
- In 1997, one in 10 workers in the trucking and warehousing industry suffered a job-related illness or injury.
That rate is almost 50 percent higher than the private sector as a whole.
But when we looked at the data from individual companies for 1996, we found 56
companies with rates double the average for all truckers and triple the private sector rates.
Those are the companies that need our attention -- and they are getting it.
- In Fiscal Year 1998, federal OSHA conducted almost 1,700 inspections of trucking
companies. The most common violations we found involved hazard communication,
forklift trucks, guarding floor and wall openings and personal protective equipment. If
you're interested in a complete listing or you want to know more about inspections of
specific companies in your industry-or others-that information is now available on
OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. Notice that ergonomics is not included -- but more on
- Next year, you may see the name of another organization on that inspection list-the U.S.
Postal Service. Now that USPS is under our jurisdiction, we will be inspecting their sites,
just like every other private sector employer.
- The second part of our strategy, after strong enforcement, is creative partnerships. Last
November we held a conference to spotlight some special partnerships as well as our
Voluntary Protection Program. The foundation for all these partnerships 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 manufactured housing.
- 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.
- Six of those VPP sites are in the trucking and warehousing industry-Westpoint Stevens in
Valley, Alabama; Allied Signal Airsupply in Chandler, Arizona; Westway in
Jacksonville, Florida; and three Midas International Warehouse sites in Perrysburg, Ohio;
Chicago, Illinois; and Taunton, Massachusetts.
- Partnership programs like VPP and the special ones I mentioned have proven to be sound
bridges between OSHA and individual companies and industries. 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. Every
one of our 67 area offices is expected to pursue at least one partnership arrangement this
- We also want to expand OSHA's outreach and training, the third part of our strategy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 specifically directs OSHA to encourage
employers and employees in their efforts to reduce hazards and to develop 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.
- President Clinton has requested an additional $12 million in OSHA's budget for the Year
2000 to place occupational safety and health training and technical assistance staff within
reach of every American business. We want to become as well known for our training
and technical assistance as we are for our inspections. This year, we are planning
extensive outreach campaigns for major new rules such as recordkeeping, safety and
health programs and ergonomics.
- The final part of our strategy is 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 them.
- I want to get rules out more quickly. At the same time, I believe we need more input
from stakeholders early in the process-as we've had with safety and health programs and
- Let me give you a brief progress report on the major rules we're developing this year.
First-and foremost-safety and health programs. We've shared a draft of this proposal
with small business as required by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement and
Fairness Act. You can view a copy of the draft on our website on the safety and health
- We are sending a revised proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for internal
review this month. That puts us on target for publication of the proposal this summer.
- The proposal includes five basic components: management leadership; employee
participation; hazard assessment; hazard prevention and control; and information and
training. We've been stressing the importance of these same elements-by one name or
another-for the past 10 years.
- Careful attention to these critical components is what makes safety pay. And the payback
is handsome. 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.
- Those of you who've already instituted an effective safety and health program know that
safety pays. And you'll be in good shape when this rule takes effect because our
proposal includes a grandfather clause for existing programs.
- We are also moving forward on our proposed ergonomics program proposal. In 1996,
nearly 650,000 U.S. workers experienced a lost workday musculoskeletal disorder. More
than 34 percent of all lost workday occupational injuries and illnesses stem from
overexertion or repetition. We have a grip on ways to reduce the $15 to $20 billion
burden in direct costs these injuries place on employers each year. >
- The keys to success are simple: reduce repeated motions, forceful hand exertions,
prolonged bending or working above shoulder height. Minimize vibration. Rely on
equipment-not backs-for heavy or repetitive lifting. Provide "micro" breaks to allow
muscles to recover.
- We are beginning the small business review process for the ergonomics proposal this
month. And we are placing the draft proposal that we are sharing with the small business
panel on our website this Friday.
- Again the basic elements of the rule are pretty clear: management leadership and
employee participation, hazard identification and information, job hazard analysis and
control, employee training, medical management and program evaluation. 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
clearance, 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.
- We've heard a lot of criticism about ergonomics. And ATA has been one of our most
vocal critics. There are still some folks arguing that there's no science to support an
ergonomics proposal. This claim continues to come forth despite an exhaustive review of
the literature by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the
National Academy of Science findings last September that there is substantial sound
scientific evidence that the greater the exposure to biomechanical stresses or ergonomic
on the job, the greater the likelihood that workers will be injured.
- If you'd like to know more about the science supporting the OSHA proposal, check these
studies on our website. Or read about the effective programs the Government Accounting
Office identified its 1997 report-also accessible from our website.
- 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. And ATA members realize what is right. You're investing millions of
dollars in equipment to reduce ergonomic hazards, and you're too smart to throw away
money on things that don't work.
- ATA has been on the opposite side of the river from OSHA on both safety and health
programs and ergonomics. I confess I don't understand your position. When I meet
individually with ATA member companies, I find you have very active safety and health
programs and ergonomics programs. The leading corporations in the trucking industry
recognize the need for safety and health programs and the importance of addressing
musculoskeletal disorders-back injuries in particular. Yet ATA has sought to block
OSHA at every turn. I'd like to see you preach what you practice.
- When you say there's no sound science to ergonomics, then spend millions on ergonomic
solutions, you give the lie to what you say. You're being dishonest with yourselves, the
Congress and the public. Let's restore some honesty to the debate in D.C. Preach what
- I challenge you to work with us to get these rules right. Tell me if the rule is too specific
or too vague. Tell me you can't trust an OSHA inspector to enforce it fairly. But don't
tell me there's no science.
- We need to encourage all employers to follow the best practices that the leaders in your
industry have already adopted. Let's reason together and build a bridge. Let's narrow the
gap-not widen it.
- 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, 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 five years of a steadily expanding economy. We have made progress, but there
are still 17 people killed on the job every day. There is still more to do.
- Together we need to continue the downward trend for workplace injuries, illnesses and
fatalities. We in OSHA need to improve our standard-setting process and move forward
with partnerships. We need to expand our training and education efforts.
- I believe the way to succeed in meeting the challenges ahead is by building bridges. I
don't think the river between us is too wide, too troubled or too deep. I believe we can
span it-if we work together. I'm willing to try. Are you?