Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||04/26/2002|
| Presented To:||OSHA All-Employee Commemoration|
| Speaker:||John L. Henshaw|
John L. Henshaw
Worker Memorial Day Remarks
OSHA All-Employee Commemoration
April 26, 2002
On Worker Memorial Day we remember those who have died on the job. We recognize our national loss in the deaths of our fellow Americans and offer our heartfelt sympathy to their loved ones.
6,000 American workers die every year. We know the statistics. But behind each number is a real person -- someone who left behind hopes and dreams and family and friends. Today, we remember and name some of those real people:
Manuel Barrariso and Donato Conde, who died when improperly erected scaffolding fell in New York City last October;
Chauncey Harris, who died earlier this month in Florida when he was caught in a wire machine;
Robert Sturm, who worked for 30 years on an oil well in Texas; he was killed in March when he was hit by a truck;
Lathia Green lost her life on April 9 when a cable in a woodyard in Georgia hit her; and
Brian McDonnell died last September 11 trying to rescue others when the World Trade Center collapsed after the terrorist attack.
I could go on and on. If we had a list of all the names, it would take 12 hours to read them.
It's our job to work with all stakeholders and find ways to prevent these tragedies.
Occasionally, we find someone with little or no regard for the welfare of workers. Sometimes there are people who don't know the right thing to do or don't want to spend the time or money or do it. But most employers and workers want to do the right thing. Our job is to help them understand what needs to be done and why safety and health saves lives ... add value to businesses ... and preserves the value of our Country.
We pay the greatest tribute to those who have died on the job when we give our utmost to prevent future tragedies. It is not enough to pause in remembrance - we must also act.
I cannot stress too strongly the value of the work we are all engaged in. Or my appreciation for the many dedicated and knowledgeable people in OSHA and other organizations who serve America's workers.
When I came to OSHA nine months ago, I vowed to help reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job. That is my commitment, and I know it is yours.
Today, I want to share with you a new strategy we're going to employ in our effort to reduce fatalities among Spanish-speaking workers. In the year 2000, workplace fatalities declined by 2 percent -- but deaths among Hispanic workers rose 12 percent. That we know.
What we don't always know is the true cause of the death. Are the jobs inherently more dangerous? Are there language barriers that could have contributed to the incident? Or are there other factors?
We don't have the data to answer those questions. Our plan is to get it.
Beginning immediately, we are going to start collecting additional information during fatality and catastrophe investigations. Our data collection will include answers to such questions as: Did the fatality or catastrophe involve an Hispanic or other immigrant worker? Was language a possible barrier?"
If the answer is yes, we'll seek out further information and include it in the abstract on the incident -- such as determining the primary language of the worker who died ... how well he or she spoke English ... the country of birth of the victim ... and whether he or she was a day laborer.
With this information in combination with other information, we can better address root causes of fatalities and better determine what needs to be done to prevent future tragedies.
We're also going to do a better job of targeting our construction inspections. Many immigrant workers who've lost their lives on the job have been employed in construction. We've long known that we need a better system for identifying the specific contractors and the construction sites with the highest incident rates.
We need to address his problem directly. Very shortly, we are going to ask 13,000 construction employers to report their injury and illness data to us. This will give us a clearer picture of what's happening in the construction industry. We'll know more about injuries and illnesses. We'll have a better idea about where fatalities might occur in the future.
And we'll use this information to plan outreach and compliance assistance programs. We'll also be able to target inspections to sites where there are high fatality risks.
I am excited about these two new initiatives. By improving the information we have, we'll be better able to address fatalities among immigrant workers and safety and health on construction sites.
There is one other thing I really want to do. And that is to personally express my sympathy to the families of workers who die on the job.
For some time, OSHA area directors have sent letters to the families of deceased workers and offered information on OSHA's investigation of their deaths. I think that is very helpful, and we want to continue that practice.
But as administrator of OSHA, I want to take that a step further. I want families of victims to know that ... at the highest levels of this agency .. we care about every person who dies on the job. I want to send these families a letter ... telling them how much I personally regret their loss. And I want them to know that we in OSHA are doing everything we can to try to prevent future deaths so that others will not have to suffer.
Finally, I cannot stress strongly enough how valuable your work is. Together, our goal is to make a difference in the lives of workers.
I believe that we are doing that. Worker Memorial Day reminds us just how important our efforts are. We remember those who have died. And we renew our commitment to helping employers and workers create and sustain a safe and healthful work environment. Thank you for your passion, you dedication and your hard work.
# # #
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|