Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||06/11/2001|
| Presented To:||American Society of Safety Engineers|
| Speaker:||Layne, R. Davis|
R. Davis Layne
American Society of Safety Engineers
Advancing the EH&S Profession
June 11, 2001
As safety professionals, you know we can never be satisfied with the status quo. Your conference theme0 -- "Advancing the EH&S Profession" makes that clear. I like the way Thomas Edison said it: "If there's a way to do it better...find it."
We're always looking for continual improvement in our safety and health programs and continual growth in ourselves -- both professionally and personally. If there's a better way, we not only want to find it, we want to find it yesterday!
Success in safety and health is about working together. It's about partnerships between employers and employees. It's about partnership between government agencies and professional organizations.
I want you to know how much we in OSHA value your partnership and your professionalism. We appreciate your participation in the public square -- testifying before Congress, commenting during OSHA rulemakings and reinforcing the importance of worker safety and health in every forum.
You have been strong advocates for professional development for both public and private sector safety and health specialists. While we may not always perfectly agree on every issue, we welcome your encouragement and your counsel. We hope you will continue to make your views widely known.
Safety is not a job for OSHA alone. That's been clear from the beginning. It takes all of us working together. OSHA has served as a catalyst.
With your help and support, we've come a long way in occupational safety and health over the past three decades. Work-related fatalities are at an all-time low. Occupational injuries and illnesses have declined 40 percent since OSHA opened its doors 30 years ago.
At the same time, U.S. employment has nearly doubled. With our state partners, we now cover 105 million workers at nearly 6.9 million sites. Yet injury and illness rates continue to come down.
What those numbers tell us is that employers and employees are taking job safety and health seriously. The right to a safe and healthful working environment is becoming firmly established. We no longer accept injuries and illnesses as a routine cost of doing business. We don't expect anyone to accept a shorter life span in exchange for a paycheck.
Thanks to the influence of safety professionals like yourselves, workplace cultures are changing. More and more employers are making safety and health a top priority. They have safety and health programs. They involve employees in preventing injuries and illnesses. They investigate not only accidents, but near misses. They build safety and health considerations into new facilities.
OSHA has adopted a number of strategies for improving workplace safety and health. Everyone knows about enforcement. We plan to conduct about 36,000 federal inspections this year and next, as in recent years.
Beyond enforcement, we will continue our emphasis on partnerships. Our premier partnership, the Voluntary Protection Programs, has grown dramatically -- an average of 25 percent in each of the past 5 years. A number of you in this room are members.
Today we have 735 VPP sites. Their success is renowned. With injury and illness rates more than 60 percent below the averages for their industries, these sites are saving millions of dollars each year.
Two years ago, the agency established the OSHA Strategic Performance Program. We now have 97 active partnerships under the OSPP umbrella. More than 5,500 employers and nearly 125,000 employees participate.
These partnerships merge the creative ideas and resources of OSHA and stakeholders. OSPPs emphasize training and education in a voluntary, cooperative atmosphere. They track results. That's how we know these partnerships have spared lives, saved money and improved the work environment for thousands of employees.
Another strategy for encouraging workplace safety and health is compliance assistance. OSHA's compliance assistance programs include in-person, on-site efforts like our consultation program targeted for small businesses. We're also reaching out through our new compliance assistance specialists.
By the end of this year, we expect to have a compliance assistance specialist serving each federal enforcement office. These staffers are separate from the enforcement staff. Their sole responsibility is to help employers and employees get the safety and health training they need and want.
We're also using the worldwide web for outreach. Information available on OSHA's website has dramatically increased from fewer than 2,000 pages in 1995 to more than 40,000 today. And our web visitors are increasing daily. We set a record in March with nearly 30 million gross hits on our website -- a 25 percent increase over our previous high.
Our site now includes specialized pages -- like an expanded small business page, a partnership page and a workers' page. We also have expert systems on our website. Some of these address specific issues such as computer workstations or respiratory protection. Others are interactive software packages that provide detailed recommendations for addressing hazards tailored to the individual workplace.
We've got a great safety and health training facility in the Chicago area -- the OSHA Training Institute. But we'd like to make our training more widely available. The 12 Education Centers have helped.
Still, there are many more employers and employees we need to reach. One possibility is satellite-delivered training. Using this technology we could provide live course broadcasts to OSHA staff and to the public. Another approach is computer-based training using CD-ROMs, DVDs and the Internet. We're now exploring the options for various approaches with a view toward expanding our effort.
OSHA has also reached out on an international level. We're getting close on an international system for hazard communication. We've established a working partnership -- and a website -- with the European Union. We're also participating in technical co-operation projects in South Africa and Bangladesh. And we're working with the construction industry on a regional project in Central America as those countries rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch.
Even as we reach out internationally, I point out things have changed at home. While there's a new team in Washington, everyone's not in place yet -- including the head of OSHA.
One of the hot topics in Washington continues to be ergonomics. That's no surprise to any of you. As you know, Congress voted to overturn the November 2000 standard and President Bush signed that bill on March 21. The President has said that he wants to pursue a comprehensive approach to ergonomics.
Secretary Chao has promised to listen to stakeholders on this issue and to find common ground. She has indicated she is willing to consider new rulemaking, guidelines or a legislative solution. In Senate testimony recently, she outlined six guiding principles for addressing ergonomics:
- Prevention -- placing greater emphasis on preventing injuries before they occur;
- Sound science -- relying on the best available science and research;
- Incentive driven -- emphasizing cooperation between OSHA and employers;
- Flexibility -- avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach;
- Feasibility -- recognizing the cost of compliance, especially for small businesses; and
- Clarity -- including short, simple and common sense instructions.
Last Thursday, the Secretary announced that she plans to make a decision on how to address ergonomics in September. To help her determine a final course of action, she is convening three public forums in July. The first is July 16 in Washington, the second July 20 in Illinois and the third July 24 here in California. We should have more details on times and locations shortly. The Federal Register notice will be published next Tuesday, and it will be available on our website.
Secretary Chao has identified three questions in particular on which she is seeking public input:
What is an ergonomics injury?
How can OSHA, employers and employees determine whether an ergonomics injury stems from work, from other activities or some combination?
What are the most useful and cost-effective types of government involvement to address these injuries -- rulemaking, guidelines, "best practices," publications/conferences, technical assistance, consultations, partnerships or combinations of these approaches?
OSHA will also be accepting comments on the issues until August 3. I encourage you to give us your best thoughts -- whether you request time to speak at one of the forums or whether you mail in your comments. You can let us know you'd like to participate electronically by visiting our website at www.osha.gov and clicking on ergonomics.
Recordkeeping is another issue that is still under review. We hope to be able to provide more guidance on that shortly. Minor changes in the cotton dust standard announced in January have gone into effect. And new requirements to prevent needlesticks took effect in April. Steel erection is scheduled to go into effect on July 16.
It's clear, even during transition, there's a lot going on at OSHA. That's good news.
The agency has just begun its fourth decade. We look back on three decades of doing our best to protect working American working men and women. And we intend to do no less in the decade ahead. We look forward to working together in partnership with you toward that end.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|