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Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 04/17/2002
• Presented To: American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
• Speaker: John L. Henshaw
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

As Prepared for Delivery

John L. Henshaw
American Occupational Health Conference
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
Chicago, Illinois
April 17, 2002

  • Good morning. It's a great pleasure to join our nation's occupational medical professionals as we look together at safety and health in the workplace in the 21st Century.

  • OSHA's goal for the next year, the next century and the next millennium is the same. And I know you share it. We want to prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. We want to drive the numbers down. And we want to work with health professionals such as occupational nurses and physicians to do that.

  • We want a close partnership with the professional occupational health community. I hope we can move forward together as part of the same team. We need to have a more seamless relationship within the safety and health community than we have had in the past. After all, we have different responsibilities, but the same mission.

  • You are on the frontlines -- identifying problems, treating workers and getting hazards corrected. One of the ways that ACOEM and AAOHN also make a difference is in establishing effective safety and health practices -- best practices -- that go beyond OSHA regulations. OSHA regulations set a floor. When you move beyond the requirements, you drive performance.

  • We need your input and your contribution. Safety and health is a shared effort. And we also share credit for the results.

  • The good news is that the numbers are moving in the right direction. For the eighth year in a row, BLS reported a drop in injuries and illnesses in 2000. The new rate is the lowest on record. Fatalities also declined from 1999 to 2000.

  • That's good, but, of course, it's not good enough. We want to accelerate the decline. That's OSHA's purpose in life. That's our bottom line. And it's yours as well.

  • Andrew Carnegie once said, "The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket -- and watches the basket." I believe he meant that one should decide on a goal and put every available resource into achieving that goal. And that is what OSHA is doing to reduce injuries and illnesses in America's workplaces.

  • Under the Bush Administration, our plan for achieving this goal focuses on four priorities:

    1) Exercising leadership in advancing safety and health;
    2) Maintaining strong, fair and effective enforcement;
    3) Expanding outreach, education and compliance assistance; and
    4) Developing and fostering partnerships and voluntary programs.
  • We have to exercise leadership if we want to advance the dialogue on the value of safety and health. OSHA must be an outspoken champion of workplace safety and health to foster continued success and effectively accelerate the decline in injuries and illnesses.

  • But, of course, we cannot lead the national dialogue alone. We need to work with health care professionals such as yourselves and others who care about worker safety and health. We must join forces in identifying and addressing the safety and health hazards that are resulting in harm to workers.

  • OSHA's second priority is strong, fair and effective enforcement. Enforcement continues to undergird everything we do.

  • The number of OSHA inspections has remained fairly steady in recent years. But this year we will conduct about 400 more inspections than in 2001. And next year, we'll add 1,300 more inspections.

  • We recently sent letters to more than 13,000 worksites advising them that they had high injury and illness rates and offering help to improve worker safety and health. If your company or one of your clients reported injury and illness rates of 8 or higher to us, you should have seen one of those letters.

  • It's no secret that those with the highest rates are the most likely to be inspected as part of our Site-Specific Targeting program. We expect to inspect about 3,000 sites over the next year under this program. We'll focus first on those with rates of 14 and above; secondly on those with rates from 8 to 14. In addition, we're planning to inspect about 1,000 high-rate nursing homes under our nursing home national emphasis program.

  • We want to make an impact with our inspections. We don't want to come back to the same sites over and over. When I speak with our compliance officers, I tell them if we've cited a company three times for the same thing, we've failed. We've missed the boat because we haven't convinced that employer of the value of safety and health and the importance of correcting that hazard.

  • We must do more than simply issue citations and propose penalties. We must be change agents. That is why it's important for our compliance officers to have the expertise, the credibility and the authority to make a difference in the workplace.

  • One way to establish expertise and enhance credibility is professional certification. So, we have an OSHA group reviewing the requirements and costs to get professional certifications for compliance officers and other agency employees. This is something we intend to pursue.

  • We must also be concerned with the standards we enforce. Toward that end we've adopted a realistic regulatory agenda. It's not a "wish list"; it's a "to-do list." It includes what we actually plan to accomplish -- and lists the next milestone and when we expect to achieve it for each standard on the list.

  • OSHA's third priority is education, outreach and compliance assistance. These strategies offer the greatest opportunities for improving compliance and reducing injuries and illnesses. We need to tap into the expertise in this country for education and training. That includes the people in this room. For some, that will involve pro bono work with small businesses. For others, it may include serving as a special government employee as part of OSHA's VPP evaluation teams. We welcome your creative ideas.

  • Within OSHA, we want to expand the assistance we provide for employers and employees who want to do the right thing and protect worker safety and health. Just last week I signed a Technical Information Bulletin offering guidance on safety and health for international travelers. About a third of U.S. travelers are visiting foreign countries on business. The new guidance outlines some basic precautions for business travelers and includes links to State Department and CDC guidance as well. The Technical Information Bulletin should be available on our website this week.

  • Last fall we conducted extensive outreach on OSHA's new recordkeeping rule. And our website is full of helpful information -- training presentations, fact sheets, forms -- and more! I know many occupational health nurses are involved in recordkeeping. I hope you've found the information you need on our website or through our training programs. If you have any questions, please call our local offices or our regional recordkeeping coordinators.

  • Another concern that demands OSHA attention is immigrant workers. We are increasing our outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking employers and employees. That's because more than 10 million Americans speak little or no English. One in five Americans does not speak English at home.

  • Our toll-free 24-hour help line -- 1-800-321-OSHA -- offers a Spanish option. We've launched a Spanish page on our website for employers and employees. Our Hispanic Task Force, established last fall, is actively pursuing partnerships and planning a summit to share successful strategies in reaching employers and workers with limited English.

  • Let me tell you about another OSHA outreach effort. It's a new free service you may be interested in -- a bi-monthly news memo called QuickTakes. You can see it on our website and sign up to have it delivered automatically to your email address. It's a round-up of news items -- just a couple of pages long, so you can scan it quickly. A number of these brief stories include links to more detailed information on our webpage so you can quickly find in-depth information if you want it. I encourage you to check it out at www.osha.gov.

  • OSHA's fourth priority is partnerships. Last year was a banner year with a 60-percent growth in strategic partnerships. We now have 11,000 employers with 250,000 workers participating in one of OSHA's 138 strategic partnerships.

  • We now have 800 employers in our premier partnership program -- the Voluntary Protection Programs. We're expecting to add another 100 sites over the next year.

  • There are both formal and informal ways that health care professionals can partner with OSHA. I would love to partner with ACOEM and AAOHN.

  • Another way you can serve your companies and your clients is by translating the science into practical applications -- reducing the science to practice. Medical professionals have the ability to identify best practices. As practitioners in the field, you can encourage businesses to move beyond the standards toward approaches that will pay off in preventing injuries and illnesses.

  • We also need a broader understanding of the value of safety and health among corporate executives. I believe one of the ways to do that may be through business schools. Business schools and their students need to pay more attention to the impact of worker safety and health on the financial health of businesses.

  • One of my priorities is to form alliances with business schools to ensure that the next generation of leaders in America's corporate world understand the value of safety and health. B-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. Part of that is also recognizing the valuable role that occupational health professionals like yourselves can play in a comprehensive safety and health management system.

  • In addition, OSHA will be looking to form a number of new partnerships in the near future as part of our comprehensive approach to ergonomics. Musculoskeletal disorders are serious injuries, and we are committed to reducing the pain and suffering that occur from workplace injuries.

  • As you know, two weeks ago we announced our four-pronged comprehensive approach including industry-specific and task-specific guidelines, enforcement, outreach and assistance and research. This is the best strategy to achieve immediate results. We know that workplace musculoskeletal disorders are on the decline and have been for the last decade. We want to work with employers and workers to accelerate that decline. And we want to do that as quickly as possible.

  • Let's talk about the guidelines -- industry-specific and task-specific. We will work with various stakeholders, and we will move forward rapidly. We will target industries and tasks where there is a problem with musculoskeletal disorders and where we have information on successful strategies.

  • Our intention is to build on guidelines and best practices already developed -- including our own meatpacking guidelines. We will move forward rapidly so we can put guidelines in place this year.

  • Guidelines give employers and workers the flexibility they need to implement solutions that will be most effective in their workplaces. We know that one size does not fit all, and this provides the flexibility needed to reduce injuries.

  • Enforcement is the second critical component of our approach to ergonomics. OSHA will focus on bad actors and develop a strategy to ensure that General Duty clause citations will stand up. We'll design a successful plan to target ergonomic violations.

  • Outreach and assistance is part three of our comprehensive approach on ergonomics. OSHA plans to offer assistance to workers and businesses, particularly small businesses to help them address ergonomics in the workplace. We'll also offer advice and training on industry-specific and task-specific guidelines we develop and assistance on how to develop an effective ergonomics program.

  • We'll provide a wealth of materials on our website, support development of ergonomic training materials and training sessions, and make ergonomics training available through the 12 Education Centers around the country.

  • As part of the Department of Labor's cross-agency commitment to protecting immigrant workers, especially those with limited English proficiency; the new ergonomics plan includes a specialized focus to help Hispanic and other immigrant workers, many of whom work in industries with high ergonomic hazard rates.

  • The remaining part of our comprehensive approach to ergonomics is research. We want to use the best available science in all that we do. Information from the National Academy of Sciences and from our ergonomics forums made clear that many gaps remain.

  • For that reason we are establishing a national advisory committee, to advise OSHA in part on gaps in ergonomics and effective prevention techniques. In concert with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the committee, representing a broad range of experts, will help OSHA serve as a catalyst to expand current research on the subject.

  • And we are moving forward. We've already established 10 regional ergonomics coordinators. We expect very shortly to announce the first industries we'll focus on. The advisory committee will be announced in the Federal Register very soon. And we'll be sharing our enforcement strategy on our website.

  • The beauty of this approach is that we can begin immediately to put in place recommendations and provide information to help employers reduce injuries and illnesses in their workplaces. We want to accelerate the decline in musculoskeletal disorders, and this is the plan to do that.

  • As head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I want to make a difference, and I want OSHA to make a difference. I know you want to make a difference as well. Together we need to work on the same page and partner to establish a mindset, a workplace culture, that acknowledges the value of safety and health. That's the only way to significantly reduce injuries and illnesses in our nation's workplaces.

  • That is the goal we share. I look forward to working with you to make that vision a reality.

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 - (Archived) Table of Contents

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