Charles N. Jeffress
OSH Law Committee
American Bar Association
February 24, 1999
- If we could find the right combination of partnering and policing to encourage every
business in the U.S. to establish a safety and health program, we'd be well on the way to
- The success stories are out there. With injury rates nearly 60 percent below the averages
for their industries, VPP sites are saving almost $135 million each year. The key, of
course, is a systematic approach -- a safety and health program.
- We know safety pays. Safety makes bottom line sense. 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.
- If we are to succeed, that must change. As we move forward into the next century,
OSHA is focusing on four integrated principles to accomplish its strategic plan: strong
enforcement, 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 strategies. Our approach must be firm. It must be fair. And it must be
focused where we can do the most good. We now have the data to direct our compliance
officers to the sites 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 for this year
similar to the Interim Targeting Program.
- ITP has worked well. We've conducted more than 2800 inspections under the program,
issuing citations in almost 1800 cases. The site -- specific data is helping us get to where
we need to be. Rich Fairfax will be discussing this in more detail later.
- When OSHA conducts an inspection, access to information on safety and health issues is
critical. The more we know about the safety and health program at a worksite, the better
we can assess the problems and the efforts an employer has made to resolve those
problems. Last year in this forum, we began a discussion about employer audits. How
should safety and health audits be used by OSHA?
- We want to encourage employers to conduct audits and to reward those who follow up on
audit recommendations and correct problems. At the same time, those who complete an
audit and then stick it on the shelf and ignore it shouldn't be shielded from their failure to
protect workers. OSHA must continue to have access to internal and third-party audits.
I welcome further discussion on what safeguards we can put on the use of the audit data
that will encourage employers to conduct audits, yet hold accountable those who fail to
act on information developed from the audits. I will be interested in the discussion on
this issue you have planned for later this week.
- The second part of our strategy 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
- 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 -- revamping the culture of an entire company and 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 operations.
- Local partnerships are a critical component of OSHA's strategy to leverage its resources.
Every one of our 67 area offices is expected to pursue at least one partnership
arrangement this year. Ironically, the CCP lawsuit continues to limit the ways in which
we can partner with industry. We discussed that last year, and I will save any further
discussion for the Q&A session.
- 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 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 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.
- Let's take a look now at the fourth principle: 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.
- I want to get rules out more quickly as well. 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. 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.
- We're going to establish 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 may also handle electric power transmission and welding, cutting
- 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,
of course, 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
- Team leaders will be held accountable for the quality of the standards their teams produce
as well as the timeliness. They will hold their team members accountable. I plan to
announce the team leaders shortly 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.
- In developing rules, OSHA also faces many external constraints. Most regulatory reform
or OSHA reform bills simply set up additional hoops for OSHA to jump through in
developing rules. What we really need to do is rethink the whole process -- from scratch.
We need a more efficient process -- less cumbersome, less tedious and less time-consuming.
That means eliminating or combining some steps. I'd love to hear your
thoughts on how we can rework the process -- and get the product out more quickly.
Again, your workshop later this week should be very helpful to us.
- Let me just briefly mention our major rulemakings. We're on target to publish a final
recordkeeping standard this June, which goes into effect in January 2000. Our safety and
health programs proposal is headed for OMB review shortly.
- Got to this point without mentioning the E-word. We took a low key approach to our
ergonomics proposal last Friday. We wanted to make sure you had something to talk
about this week. This week we sent the draft regulatory text of our ergonomics proposal
to the small business panel for review as required by the Small Business Regulatory
Enforcement and Fairness Act. That document is available on our website -- www.osha.gov.
The next steps include OMB review, publication of a proposal in September, hearings and then a final standard in 2000.
- We have an ambitious schedule this year -- continuing our targeted enforcement efforts,
developing new partnerships, expanding outreach and training and revamping our internal
standards-writing process in the midst of promulgating three major rules. We may have
bitten off more than we can chew.
- But all of these efforts are critical to worker safety and health. And if we don't move
forward, then we will surely slide backward. So I think we have to keep pressing for
progress on each front.
- Our goal is clear -- sending every worker home whole and healthy every day. I think we're
on the right path to reach that goal. I look forward to working with you toward that end.