Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||04/11/2002|
| Presented To:||Georgetown Workplace Safety Summit|
| Speaker:||John L. Henshaw|
As Prepared for Delivery
John L. Henshaw
Georgetown Workplace Safety Summit
April 11, 2002
OSHA has one goal, and one goal only -- to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. I know that's a goal we all share. I appreciate Georgetown University and John Mayo bringing us together to discuss ways to achieve this goal. This is a good opportunity to take another step forward with the national dialogue on workplace safety and health.
What we're really looking for is a paradigm shift, a national change in workplace culture in businesses of every size in every industry. We want to move safety and health from the wings to center stage.
Worker safety and health isn't a sideline, a collateral responsibility for someone in the HR office. In every business, it's everybody's business. It must be woven through everything the company is and does. In other words, safety and health must become a core value for every business and a critical responsibility for every manager, every supervisor and every worker.
There is a business case to be made for safety and health. Safety and health add value. Sometimes the value adds up in dollars and cents.
Take, for example, Igloo, manufacturer of plastic products. Following an inspection of an Igloo plant in Texas, OSHA compliance officers made the case to plant management that safety pays. Plant managers agreed and three months later invited OSHA to return to see that they had abated hazards found during the inspection and made other improvements as well. OSHA staff discussed additional safety strategies including how a safety and health program can be a profit center.
Again three months passed, and Igloo invited OSHA to come back to see yet more improvements -- many above and beyond the requirements of OSHA standards. In all, this manufacturer spent more than $1 million to improve the facility and strengthen the safety and health program.
The result? From 2000 to 2001, they cut lost time injuries by 40%. That reduced their medical costs by 60% -- a $1 million decline. So in just one year Igloo's savings on medical costs alone paid for the entire cost of the improvements. And that doesn't begin to tally the substantial increases in productivity, improved quality control, reduced spoilage and product damage and increased goodwill with their employees that they also gained.
Business schools and their students need to take a look at case studies like this one. The Center for Business and Public Policy and the McDonough School of Business are on the right track in focusing on workplace safety and health.
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.
Business schools produce leaders for the corporate world. I'm also concerned about safety and health in small businesses. OSHA has developed an alliance with the Association of Small Business Development Centers and the Department of Labor's Office of Small Business Programs to help small businesses improve their safety and health performance. The Small Business Development Centers will refer small businesses to OSHA to get training, find out more about our cooperative and partnership programs. The first project is to provide information on OSHA's new recordkeeping standard. We'll have other initiatives with small business as well.
Another group I am eager to reach is immigrant workers. As Secretary Chao made plain on Monday, the Department of Labor will enforce labor laws such as minimum wage and safety and health standards without regard to immigration status. We've significantly expanded our outreach to Hispanic workers.
Our toll-free 24-hour help line-1-800-321-OSHA -- offers a Spanish option. We have a new Spanish page on our website to provide one-stop service for Spanish speakers. 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. We also recently signed a partnership with the Hispanic Contractors Association to work together to provide safety and health training and educational materials for Spanish-speaking contractors and workers.
Let me briefly mention just one other area of emphasis for OSHA-ergonomics. Musculoskeletal disorders are serious injuries, and we are committed to reducing the pain and suffering that occur from workplace injuries.
As you know, last week 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.
And we are moving forward. We've established 10 regional ergonomics coordinators. We expect very shortly to announce the criteria for selecting the industries for guidelines -- and soon after that the first industries we'll focus on. We'll be sharing our enforcement strategy as well.
As head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, I want to make a difference, and I want OSHA to make a difference. We want to significantly reduce injuries and illnesses in our nation's workplaces. I know you share that goal. I look forward to working with you and others who genuinely care about the safety and health of America's workers. Let's make that vision a reality.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
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