Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||09/25/2001|
| Presented To:||National Safety Congress|
| Speaker:||John L. Henshaw|
John L. Henshaw
National Safety Congress
September 25, 2001
Thank you, Pat. I?m pleased to be able to join so many of my colleagues in the safety and health community. I know you share my commitment to make a positive difference in our nation?s workplaces.
There is no greater honor, no greater responsibility, and no greater opportunity for an occupational safety and health professional like me than to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I am honored to serve you in this capacity.
We have been through a challenging and difficult time during the last six weeks? since the Senate confirmed my appointment.
Most recently - Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao asked me to go to New York two days after the terrorist strike -? to join our staff already on the ground. We wanted to show our support. And we wanted to make clear that the Department of Labor and OSHA cared about the well being of those engaged in the rescue work and those ready to return to work in lower Manhattan.
OSHA, together with other federal agencies including EPA and FEMA, is continuing to work with the City of New York as it deals with this disaster. We are doing everything we can to assist. This means working with employees on the site at ?ground zero,? providing advice and information about personal protective equipment and other concerns. As part of our assistance effort, OSHA is handing out thousands of respirators directly to search and rescue workers.
We have also called on the private sector to step forward to contribute equipment and supplies. I asked ASSE, AIHA and the National Safety Council to offer voluntary assistance to employers who have concerns about working conditions in their buildings related to recovery. And each of these organizations has set up a hotline to provide pro bono advice to those seeking to recover from this tragedy.
No doubt a number of you have already been involved -? or will be -? in this effort. I thank you, and the nation thanks you, for your generous gifts of time, expertise and supplies.
That includes companies like MSA whose president called me from Mexico while I was in New York City and volunteered to send respirators. Magic Gloves sent 7 skids of work gloves. Julius Kraft Company provided thousands of respirators plus tyvec suits and other protective equipment. And there are many others.
I?m sure each NSC, ASSE and AIHA can provide lists of their members and what they?re doing to help out in New York City and at the Pentagon. We deeply appreciate the willingness of safety and health professionals to take this on.
The help is truly needed. The devastation at the site of the World Trade Center defies description. But the dedication of public servants and private individuals determined to help however they can, speaks volumes about the resilience of our nation?s citizens.
The challenges of the past two weeks have made clear how important it is that we all stand together as Americans and work with one another to achieve our common good. This is especially true for the safety and health community.
One of my goals as head of OSHA is to draw on the expertise and resources of other safety and health professionals, like the thousands gathered in this room. OSHA needs to take advantage of the creative ideas and the synergy of partnership with those who share our vision and our commitment.
I believe OSHA must do more then just assure compliance with standards. We must use all the tools in our tool bag to prevent injury, illness and death in the workplace. That means, we must join forces with our colleagues in the safety and health community to achieve this goal.
I?ve taken on this job because I believe OSHA should be the champion of workplace safety and health. Like many of you, I?ve been championing the value of safety and health for the past quarter century. I know -? as you know -? that safety and health add value.
That value may have a direct impact on the bottom line, like fewer injuries and illnesses, lower medical costs and less downtime. Or it may be subtle and difficult to measure.
Safety and health add value in hidden ways by increasing performance, productivity and innovation and creativity. Then there?s the value inherent in employee ownership of safety and health improvements and higher employee morale. Or as Greg Swienton of Ryder Truck said yesterday, safety and health delivers on all business goals ?- financial performance, customer service, quality, asset management and more.
These values for some may be difficult to put your finger on. But as Greg Swienton knows, they are real.
The value-added message is one that many of you have already shared with your organizations. But OSHA also needs to communicate that safety and health add value. That must be our message to all our stakeholders ?- especially small businesses and others who are less likely to appreciate the value of safety and health. We will need your help to deliver this message.
I welcome your creative ideas for ways we can work together to ensure that every employer and every employee in the U.S. fully understands that safety and health add value.
As we begin the odyssey of a new century, OSHA will focus on four priorities. Number one is leadership. Together with professional groups, trade associations, unions and other stakeholders, we need to lead the national dialogue on safety and health. We want to be on the frontlines of this conversation not the sidelines.
Together we must identify the priorities and set the agenda. Then we must face the challenges and work with stakeholders to produce the results we all want -? fewer injuries and illnesses on the job.
We have the expertise to do it. But we need to align ourselves with others like yourselves who are committed to workplace safety and health to marshal our resources and maximize our impact.
Number two. I believe in strong, effective and fair enforcement. So does Secretary Chao. And that?s reflected in this year?s enforcement statistics. OSHA inspections and violations issued thus far in 2001 are about the same as last year.
While these measures may need some refinement, the numbers of inspections are about the same this year as last and the number of serious violations are up. Average penalties have increased. The bottom line is that this year?s enforcement profile is very similar to last year?s.
The true effectiveness of enforcement depends upon the skills, training and expertise of OSHA inspectors. They must be prepared to do more than interpret standards and issue citations. They need to emerge as experts with the credibility and authority to make a difference in the workplace.
This will help reduce the adversarial perception of the agency and increase our effectiveness. I?ve asked a group of OSHA staffers, headed by Hank Payne from the OSHA Training Institute, to review requirements and costs to get professional certifications for OSHA inspectors and other agency employees. They?ll be looking at both long-term and short-term options available to us to achieve this goal.
Many employers have indicated they want to work with us to improve our inspection process. We need to find ways to engage them, along with workers, in eliminating hazards and improving safety and health in the workplace.
When we speak with our stakeholders, we need to do so in terms they understand. That may call for some changes in preparing our inspectors for the job. Perhaps we?ll want to draw more of our inspectors from the private sector or have OSHA inspectors complete internships with companies before becoming an inspector. By experiencing business and using business terminology in future work, we might get our point across more effectively.
We will use the enforcement hammer when needed. But when other tools, such as compliance assistance and partnership, will produce better, longer-lasting results, then we will use them.
Number three. We must expand our outreach, education and compliance assistance efforts. I believe these strategies offer the greatest opportunities for improving compliance and reducing injuries and illnesses.
We?re beginning a major outreach effort on our new recordkeeping rule. It will involve user-friendly materials and easy-to-understand presentations and training. Watch our website at www.osha.gov for details.
But OSHA cannot do the job of education and training alone. We need to leverage the resources of others in the safety and health community. We will need to work more closely with all of you to help deliver the education and training to achieve our common goals.
Clearly in this administration, we will have a renewed emphasis on compliance assistance. Secretary Chao has stressed the importance of prevention and compliance assistance. This is a very exciting area to me, one where we have seen a lot of gains already. I personally believe we will see greater returns on our investments in injury and illnesses reductions, with compliance assistance, than in any other thing we do.
Of course, some of our clients speak another language entirely. We need to reach them as well.
We know that over 10 million Americans speak little or no English at all. Many are in the workforce. This language barrier has serious consequences in many areas, not the least of which is safety and health practice. In fact, we know that construction fatalities among Hispanic workers have risen significantly. This is a group that needs more of OSHA?s attention and more of your attention.
OSHA has many local efforts to reach Hispanic workers such as the CARE program in South Florida to reduce construction deaths, the 10-hour construction classes given in Spanish in Texas and other states efforts. We also hold small business seminars for Hispanic businesses.
Our compliance assistance specialists are actively working with immigrant groups and business owners. And we have bi-lingual inspectors in many areas to assist with translations where needed. But we must do a lot more.
I am very pleased to tell you that this week we are announcing new awards for our Susan Harwood training grants. Included among them is a grant to the National Safety Council to translate training materials on highway work-zone hazards into Spanish for hard-to-reach immigrant Hispanic workers. NSC will be working with the Alice Hamilton Occupational Health Center to pilot the materials and deliver the training.
We look forward to working with the National Safety Council on other Hispanic outreach projects in the near future.
In addition, I?ve asked John Miles, our Dallas Regional Administrator, to head a task force to help us coordinate and extend our outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking workers and businesses. We need to do more to reach these workers, and we?ll be looking for ways to work with a variety of groups to improve safety among immigrant workers.
Number four. OSHA must expand its partnership and voluntary programs at the local, regional and national level. We need to involve union, trade and professional groups at the macro and micro levels. Every one of these groups is an opportunity for partnership and every group has the ability to voluntarily improve their safety and health programs.
Through partnerships we can encourage companies to begin moving up the ladder of safety and health performance, the top of which might be VPP STAR. Envision a world where trade associations spending more money on helping their companies improve safety and health and therefore adding value to the bottom line ?- than in fighting regulations.
I?d like to see OSHA establish partnerships with graduate education programs at business schools. Business Schools should be articulating the value of the American worker and how protecting workers through strong workplace safety and health efforts adds value to companies.
The goal is simple. We need to get every workplace on the ladder of success in reducing injuries and illnesses. When they see that safety and health add value, American workplaces will want to move up the ladder.
There are many good people trying to do the right thing. We can, and should, do more to help them succeed. Partnerships give us a vehicle to deliver that.
As head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I am here to serve you -? the American worker, the businesses of this great country, and the professionals of this great society.
I want to make a difference, and we want OSHA to make a difference and together we will make the difference. We need each other to succeed and I look forward to working with you as we make the largest gains in injury and illness prevention then ever before realized.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|