Charles N. Jeffress
"Future Directions for OSHA"
National Safety Congress
New Orleans, La.
October 19, 1999
- Victor Hugo once said, "Knowing exactly how much of the future can be
introduced into the present is the secret of a great government." That's a tough
- Our goal for the future is to send every worker home whole and healthy every day.
But the strategies of the past are not sufficient to meet the challenges of the future.
We cannot just add inspections. We must find a way to multiply our impact.
And that calls for a different strategy. It calls for new ways of working. And
that's the title of our exhibit that I hope you will visit in the exhibit hall-New
Ways of Working
- Strong enforcement will always be a vital component of OSHA's effort to send
every worker home whole and healthy. Inspections help deter neglect, and they
promote diligence in protecting workers. To make the most of our inspection
resources, we are targeting our inspections toward those employers who most need
- This past spring, OSHA sent out letters to 12,000 businesses across the nation with
the highest injury and illness rates, based on our survey of about 80,000 worksites.
Essentially, we said to these folks, we've made a list, we've checked it twice, and
you're on it!
- We encouraged them to improve-to contact a private consultant, to call their
insurance company, to arrange a visit from the free state consultation service. And
above all, to establish a safety and health program. Because of the decision in the
Chamber of Commerce lawsuit, we could not offer employers who invested in
safety and health programs a reduced chance of inspection. But we could tell them
an effective program would make a difference, and we did.
- By the end of this year, we will inspect about 2,200 of these sites-beginning with
those whose injury and illness rates are four times as high as the private sector
average. Under this site-specific targeting program, we find four times as many
significant cases as we do from any other kind of inspections. The targeting is
getting us to the right places, places where we need to get the employer's attention.
You can count on our continuing this program in the future.
- The second pillar in our new ways of working is partnership. Partnership has great
potential for multiplying our progress.
- All of you are familiar with our premier partnership-the Voluntary Protection
Program. Many of you participate in this recognition of the very best performers
in safety and health in America.
- The success of VPP is clear, and we will continue to expand the program. We
also need to make VPP permanent. It's time to pronounce our 17-year experiment
in partnership a success and write it into law. Representatives Tom Petri of
Wisconsin and Rob Andrews of New Jersey have introduced a bill to do this.
Passage of this bill would affirm the value of partnership and the effectiveness of
recognizing VPP sites as models of excellence. Unfortunately, the bill has gotten
caught up in partisan politics in Washington, and business and labor alike are
watching in disgust as political posturing in Congress prevents this deserving bill
- But VPP continues to flourish as do others. For instance, we are trying a corporate
partnership with ConAgra Refrigerated Foods-establishing effective safety and
health programs in every plant they own. And we're participating in industry-specific partnerships such as SESAC for steel erectors in Colorado and the Lehigh
Valley Industry Partnership in Pennsylvania.
- One of our newest partnerships, C.A.R.E., offers a glimpse of future partnership
possibilities with OSHA. C.A.R.E. stands for Construction Accident Reduction
Emphasis. It covers the state of Florida, and it began last February.
- Work-related fatalities have increased nearly 25 percent over the past three years
in Florida. And half of those deaths in 1998 occurred in construction.
- C.A.R.E. represents a hybrid partnership that combines outreach and education
with enforcement. It involves employers, employees, trade associations, unions
and state agencies. It's a joint effort among those who care about the safety and
health of construction workers in Florida.
- The Florida Consultation Program has held six 10-hour construction safety
courses-one each month over six months. OSHA is distributing a computer disk
with a model safety and health program and specifics for special areas such as
hazard communication, lockout/tagout and trenching. Other organizations are
serving as mentors and models.
- There is also an enforcement component in the C.A.R.E. partnership focused on
the four leading causes of death on construction sites: falls, electrical shock, being
struck by machines or materials, and being crushed, such as a trenching collapse or
being pinned under a vehicle that has overturned. When OSHA compliance
officers find that contractors are not controlling these hazards, no quarter will be
given. Maximum fines will be assessed.
- C.A.R.E. offers a great opportunity to reduce construction fatalities through a
concerted outreach and training effort involving many partners followed up by
focused enforcement from OSHA. It's the kind of program we need to consider in
other areas where construction fatalities are high.
- Outreach and training are critical components of OSHA partnerships of the future.
We need to provide more training and education for employers, especially small
businesses. When I meet with employers, they tell me they want to protect their
workers. But they need help to know what to do. OSHA wants to provide that
help. Expanded outreach and training is the third pillar of our new ways of
- OSHA has never had full-time staff dedicated to teaching employers and
employees about safety and health, except for a small staff at the OSHA Training
Institute in Chicago. President Clinton has asked for an additional $12 million in
OSHA's budget for the Year 2000 to place full-time occupational safety and health
training and technical assistance staff in every federal OSHA office. The proposal
is in jeopardy, because the House Committee has voted for major cuts in OSHA's
budget while the Senate has recommended an increase.
- We need to provide more technical assistance to employers to make a greater
impact, but we cannot do it without an investment by Congress. We think this is a
wise use of federal funds, one that will pay measurable dividends for contractors
- The first three pillars of OSHA's new ways of working are strong enforcement,
partnership and expanded outreach and training. The fourth pillar is the
foundation that gives support to the others-and that is standard setting.
- Only the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is empowered to set
national mandatory standards for the workplace. States can handle enforcement,
training and consultation. Trade associations and unions and the National Safety
Council can conduct training and provide helpful information. The American
National Standards Institute and other organizations can produce recommendations
by consensus. But OSHA alone has the responsibility and the authority to
establish nationwide legal requirements to protect workers on the job.
- Setting standards is something we must do well. And we must do it differently in
the future than we have in the past. It's impossible to tailor standards to fit every
conceivable hazard. Instead, we must empower employers and employees to
address problems within a practical framework. We must focus on performance
rather than specification.
- A specification approach is inherently limited, narrowly focused and inflexible.
It's also insufficient to address the myriad and ever-changing hazards in the
American workplace on the edge of the 21st Century.
- A systems approach to safety makes more sense. It's the right thing for
employers to do. It's risk-based rather than rule-based. Employers need to
analyze their worksites and find and fix hazards. They don't need OSHA to direct
every step. Our job is to provide the impetus to get everyone started and an
accountability process to keep them going.
- The challenge OSHA faces is to write easy-to-understand, flexible standards and
then to enforce them fairly and consistently. All of us in OSHA, from standards
writers to compliance officers, have to shift our paradigms.
- When we inspect, we have to conduct a more in-depth evaluation of the safety
systems in place. We can't just take air samples and inspect machine guards.
We must expand our horizons beyond a simple tally of violations to an assessment
of systems. That will take some retraining and some attitude adjustment. And
we're working on both!
- Based on this approach, my top priority performance standard is the safety and
health program rule. We know that when worksites take a holistic approach by
establishing a safety and health program, they do a better job of protecting
- We must dispel the myth that safety and health programs pose added burdens and
offer no benefits. You know the opposite is true: safety and health programs add
value and reduce costs.
- Even average companies can reduce injuries 20 to 40 percent by establishing
safety and health programs. Several studies have estimated that safety and health
programs save $4 to $6 for every dollar invested. Yet only about 30 percent of
U.S. worksites have established these programs.
- That is of grave concern to me. Ten years ago OSHA set forth guidelines for
safety and health programs. But we have yet to translate that success from the best
companies to the rest of the companies. Voluntary guidelines have been helpful.
But if we want universal adoption of safety and health programs, we need a rule
- That is my top priority, and we plan to publish our proposal early next year.
- Another, much-discussed, issue we face as we approach the new millennium is
work-related musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs. MSDs rarely result in death, but
too often result in disability-and that destroys lives. Each year more than 600,000
workers experience MSDs serious enough to cause them to miss work-and serious
enough to cost their employers $15 to $20 billion in workers' compensation costs
- Why? Because so few employers have addressed overexertion and repetitive
motion hazards at their sites. The National Academy of Sciences study completed
a year ago found ergonomics programs effective in reducing MSDs. It was the
latest in a long line of such studies. But only 16 percent of employers nationwide
have developed effective ergonomics programs. That is why we need an
- And we know enough to act now. This week I expect to finalize our proposal. We
are so close I had to ask Marthe Kent to stay in Washington tomorrow to keep
working on it, and Mike Connors will be substituting for her on the ergonomics
panel. I encourage those of you who attend that panel to focus on what is working
to control MSDs and don't waste your time on whether you know enough to act
- Unless Congress intervenes, within the next few weeks OSHA will publish its
proposal in the Federal Register. I hope you will all participate in this rulemaking
and help us craft a practical, protective rule. You will be able to participate in this
rulemaking electronically, sending us your comments over the Internet, after we
publish the rule, and I invite you to do so. There is no excuse for anyone who
wants to participate in this process not to do so.
- Early next year OSHA will also publish its 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.
- We want to be sure that everyone has sufficient time to get ready for the new
system. So, the rule will take effect in January 2001. 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.
- In a few weeks, the complete OSHA regulatory agenda will be published in the
Federal Register. These rules I've just mentioned will be on it. We also plan to
issue the final tuberculosis and steel erection rules next year. And we will propose
new rules for several air contaminants and confined spaces in construction as well
as continue working on several others.
- OSHA is addressing the future today through its new ways of working. I believe
we're on the right track. But as Will Rogers once said, "Being on the right track
isn't enough. If you just sit there, you're going to get run over." We need to keep
moving forward, and because the future is always evolving and unfolding
somewhat differently than we pictured, we need varied approaches to meet the
concerns of tomorrow.
- We must continue to emphasize strong enforcement, promote partnerships and
expand training and education. We must set forth flexible frameworks to empower
employers to protect workers. Through these new ways of working, we hope to
achieve our goal-and yours-and send every worker home whole and healthy every