Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 09/14/1999
• Presented To: Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association Conference
• Speaker: Jeffress, Charles N.
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

"This document was published prior to the publication of OSHA's final rule on Ergonomics Program (29 CFR 1910.900, November 14, 2000), and therefore does not necessarily address or reflect the provisions set forth in the final standard."


Charles N. Jeffress
Voluntary Protection Programs
Participants Association Conference
"Building Monuments of Excellence"
Washington, D.C.
September 14, 1999



  • It is a real pleasure to meet with an organization here in Washington that believes in safety and health protection. I am delighted to be among friends! Rather than having to stand in front of a group convincing them that safety and health makes sense, I can come here and hear you tell me how your programs reduce injuries and illnesses.
  • That's where VPP companies excel. And every VPP site is different. IP Nursery in Selma, Alabama, and CF Industries in St. Louis, Missouri, each have only six employees. On the other end of the scale is Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, which covers 31,000 workers. Industries vary from chemical manufacturing to a nursing home to lumber and wood products. VPP companies make golf balls, razors and cookies.
  • And I am delighted to share the stage today with Pete Correll, CEO of Georgia Pacific, one of the giants in proving that safety and health management is critical to successful businesses today.
  • Some of your VPP sites have been in the program just a few months. But 51 of you have already established yourselves as monuments of excellence. You have 10 years or more in the program. Just to recognize the veterans among you, could we have VPP participants with 10 or more years stand, please? You're looking at a decade of success-people who collectively have prevented thousands of injuries at their sites. We applaud your leadership and achievement in safety and health.
  • Despite the differences among your programs, all VPP sites know firsthand that safety pays. You have a safety and health program that's effective in protecting workers from occupational injuries and illnesses. Your monuments aren't made of granite or brass. Your monuments are healthy, safe, productive workers -- workers who can do their best because they know their safety and health comes first.
  • Your programs aren't the same -- they're tailored to fit each site. But they incorporate the same basic principles, and they produce similar successes. You've each tried a systems management approach to workplace safety and health for one reason: It works!
  • It's easy to see in the numbers. Savings of $110 million each year thanks to 50 percent fewer injuries. In fact, if every company in VPP today continues for 10 years, your workers will avoid more than 35,000 injuries, and together you'll save more than $1 billion. That's enough that even people here in Washington will sit up and take notice!
  • Not everyone in the Capital though sees the value of safety and health programs-or the relevance of a systems approach to safety. From the questions I'm called upon to answer, it's not clear that everyone believes the impact of safety and health programs are worth the cost.
  • But you have the facts and figures. You have the proof to dispel the myth that safety and health programs pose added burdens with few benefits. You know the opposite is true: safety and health programs add value and reduce costs.
  • I want to extend the benefits that employees receive at topnotch companies like yours to all working Americans. I'd love to see occupational injuries sliced in half. There's only one way to make that happen. That's to ensure that every employer establishes a safety and health program. To bring that to pass, we need your help.
  • It's time to respond directly to the critics. When critics and uninformed officials say safety and health programs are costly or unnecessary, they suggest you don't know what you're doing. They are ignorant of the reasons for your investment and your achievements.
  • Let me share with you the questions I get asked. First, why do small businesses need safety and health programs? Of course, the answer is simple. Safety and health hazards exist in companies of all sizes. While the smallest employers -- those with 10 or fewer employees -- account for only 15 percent of the American workforce, they accounted for 30 percent of workplace deaths in 1997. That's twice as many deaths as their percentage in the workforce. They need safety programs just as much as -- even more than -- employees at larger companies-yet they're less likely to have them. OSHA surveys show that a majority of establishments with more than 100 employees have safety and health programs. But only a small minority of smaller sites do.
  • How do we know safety and health programs will work at smaller companies? We know because of you. About 15 percent of VPP participants have fewer than 100 employees. Two have fewer than 10. You've proven safety and health programs make a significant difference. The consultation program we run in conjunction with state officials also demonstrates the effectiveness of safety and health programs among smaller companies. And when you talk to your contractors and suppliers who are small businesses, please encourage those who need it to take advantage of this free consultation service.
  • The second question I frequently get is: Do safety and health programs really prevent injuries? Well, no athlete wins without training. No business succeeds without planning. Focusing on safety up front is the only way to integrate it into the daily ebb and flow of your work. States that have required employers to have safety and health programs for five years or more-Alaska, California, Hawaii and Washington-have reduced injuries faster than the rest of the country. You all know better than I that safety and health programs work.
  • Third question: Shouldn't OSHA adopt voluntary guidelines for safety and health programs rather than mandatory requirements? As you know, we did-10 years ago. Since then 59 million workplace injuries have occurred and 73,500 workers have died on the job. Plus, employers have spent more than $1 trillion -- that's one trillion dollars in 10 years -- on injuries alone! Yet only about 30 percent of small employers have seen the wisdom of adopting safety and health programs. If we are to pass along your experience, and if we are to fulfill our obligation to protect American workers, we need to move from voluntary guidelines to required practices. We are counting on businesses like yours affirming that these required practices are good business decisions.
  • Safety pays for workers, employers and stockholders. That's the message we need you to take to your industry and your community. Share your success-and let all working Americans benefit.
  • Many of you have been reaching out to other companies in a number of helpful ways. I want to commend you for that. You've held regional conferences to spark interest in VPP. Your association has developed a VPP application workshop to assist companies in applying for OSHA recognition.
  • You've also helped directly in expanding VPP by sharing your staff with us -- as Special Government Employees. During the past year more than 70 representatives of VPP companies have been available to serve on OSHA evaluation teams.
  • I'd like for all the VPP Volunteers to stand. Thank you. You've given us your time and your expertise -- resources that have benefited OSHA greatly. Your participation has helped us leverage our limited resources to increase VPP sites.
  • VPP companies have done an outstanding job mentoring companies that express interest in the program. You've helped 115 companies establish or improve their safety and health programs and move toward VPP participation. That's great.
  • Now I'm asking you to move beyond those who come to you. I ask you to step forward to take the message to others who may not be as ready or eager to receive it. Those who aren't yet convinced are the ones we most need to reach.
  • We've talked about the success of VPP and the importance of expanding it. We also need to make VPP permanent. I think it's time to pronounce our 17-year experiment in partnership a success and write it into law. I commend your association for pursuing this goal, and I thank Representatives Petri of Wisconsin and Andrews of New Jersey for introducing the bill. I met last week with Representative Cass Ballenger, chairman of the subcommittee considering the bill. He has concerns that safety committees may violate the National Labor Relations Act and wants to amend the bill. That amendment is totally unnecessary. I'd like to see the bill passed, and passed quickly, without that amendment, but the chairman is not yet convinced. I assure you, I will keep up my efforts to help this bill become law. It's time the U.S. Congress recognized you as the leaders you are in safety and health.
  • However, nothing is moving through Congress quickly these days -- including appropriations bills. I am very concerned because the spending limits some want to impose threaten support for VPP as well as many other OSHA and Labor Department programs. If the limits remain, OSHA will be cut by one-third, and many of the helpful things we do to support safety and health programs around the country will be scaled back dramatically.
  • In contrast to the retrenchment proposed by Congress, President Clinton has asked for an additional $12 million in OSHA's budget for 2000 to place full-time occupational safety and health training and technical assistance staff in every federal OSHA office. We want to do more education, training and outreach from our area offices. We need to provide more technical assistance to employers to make a greater impact, but we must have the resources to do it.
  • I particularly appreciate Secretary Herman's leadership as OSHA finds new ways to work with people. The Secretary has led us in emphasizing results and developing creative approaches to reach them.
  • And we have a number of challenges ahead of us, especially in the area of new OSHA standards. We plan to propose the safety and health program rule in the next few months, and we will need your full participation during that rulemaking. Also, very shortly, we will be publishing our ergonomics proposal and then our final recordkeeping rule.
  • Ergonomics is a very hot topic in Washington. It's not a new issue. OSHA has been concerned about work-related musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, for two decades.
  • But we can no longer wait to address MSDs. More than one-third of all serious occupational injuries and illnesses stem from overexertion or repetition. That's more than 600,000 each year. These injuries cost businesses $15 to $20 billion annually in workers' comp costs alone. Add indirect costs, and the total mounts as high as $60 billion.
  • Further, we have the scientific evidence and the backing of the scientists and medical community to move forward now. Studies in 1997 by NIOSH and in 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences verify that sound scientific evidence links back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome and other MSDs to work. We know that higher physical stress leads to greater likelihood of injury and that interventions -- ergonomics programs -- can reduce the risk of injury.
  • Some people, including many members of Congress, want to see another study done to verify that ergonomics programs make sense. Based on experiences like yours, I think we know enough to act now.
  • We expect to publish our proposal shortly, take public comments, hold hearings in early 2000 and then publish a final rule the end of next year. It's an ambitious schedule, but the issue is critical. Every year 600,000 people are suffering work-related MSDs, and we must act now. We welcome your participation in this rulemaking -- especially since so many of you have developed excellent ergonomics programs.
  • Also this year, we will issue our final recordkeeping rule. We had hoped to publish it sooner so that we could have the new forms in place in January 2000. We're not going to meet that deadline.
  • It's critical to the success of the new system for people to have the training and support they need to help them learn the differences. OSHA has promised to provide that. And we will do it. But to do it right, we need -- and employers and state OSHA programs need -- more than a couple of months to gear up.
  • So I expect that the new rule will not go into effect this coming January, but January 2001. That will give you time to make the necessary changes to your systems. I think you will be pleased with the changes we've made. The new rule will offer clearer definitions of work-relatedness, a better explanation of what constitutes light duty and a much improved and simpler recordkeeping form. I encourage VPPPA to consider offering recordkeeping training -- as other trade and professional organizations will be doing -- as part of its services to members and prospective members.
  • As you can see, OSHA has plenty of challenges before it over the next several months. VPP also faces challenges as we enter the next millennium.
  • We need to help sites that have been in the program for many years find strategies to continually improve their performance. As motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, "Go as far as you can see, and when you get there, you will always be able to see farther." I think that's a great description of the continual improvement process.
  • We also need to expand the program to more sites through continuing the VPP Volunteers and VPPPA mentoring programs. We need to develop new models for VPP, such as the program for short-term construction contractors. We need to communicate VPP success to the public and decisionmakers to demonstrate the value of safety and health programs.
  • When you joined VPP, you made a conscious decision to join a partnership. You've chosen a different path, one that has made a significant difference.
  • And you have made a big difference to OSHA. We point to all of you with pride as real world examples how to do safety and health right.
  • In this world, few choose partnership. Few reach for the stars. And fewer still attain your success. OSHA covers more than 6 million worksites, but less than one-tenth of 1 percent fly Star flags.
  • I admire your dedication. I salute your achievement. And I deeply value your partnership. Thank you for sharing your achievements with us.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents