Speeches - Table of Contents Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 10/19/1999
• Presented To: National Safety Congress
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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 balancing act.

  • 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 our help.

  • 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 from passing.

  • 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 working.

  • 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 and workers.

  • 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 workers.

  • 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 mandating them.

  • 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 alone.

  • 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 ergonomics standard.

  • 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 now.

  • 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 day.


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