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Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 12/11/2002
• Presented To: The National Ergonomic Conference
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

John L. Henshaw
The National Ergonomic Conference
Las Vegas, Nevada
December 11, 2002

  • Good morning. I'm delighted to be here today. In the past week, I've been carrying OSHA's message to five different audiences, but none as large as yours.

  • I think that the audience size alone is one good measure of the importance that ergonomics has in American business today ... and reflects businesses' keen interest in finding ways to solve ergonomic problems as the challenges present themselves. We at OSHA share that keen interest.

  • The message I have to deliver today is simple: Safety and health add value. To your business. To your workplace. To your life.

  • We need your help to deliver this message -- especially concerning ergonomics.

Adding Value
  • The value for businesses makes sense: focusing on safety and health programs is the right thing to do; it saves money and adds value to the organization. The business case for safety and health is clear -- and the business case for ergonomics' programs is becoming more and more evident.

  • Safety and health add value to the workplace as well. The benefits include increased productivity, higher quality, increased morale and reduced turnover.

  • Clearly safety and health add value to life. For workers, getting hurt or sick is not just physically painful. On-the-job injuries and illnesses can significantly reduce income, increase stress and hinder a full family life.

What OSHA is Doing
  • To achieve its mission of reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace, OSHA will demonstrate its leadership by focusing on three strategies --

    1. Strong, effective, fair enforcement

    2. Outreach, education and compliance assistance and

    3. Partnerships and voluntary programs

  • A strong enforcement program underlies everything else we do... and where we must use enforcement to get employers' attention... we will.

  • Since we have finite resources, we must identify those employers where this strategy is the only way to create change, achieve compliance and injury and illness reductions, and produce continuous improvement. And we are doing that.

  • Overall, we pledged we'd do 36,400 inspections in Fiscal Year 2002, the highest total in eight years ... and we exceeded our target by more than 1,000 inspections ... 37,493

  • At nearly 75% of the workplaces we've inspected, we've found serious, repeat or willful violations. That means we're going to the right places ... and we're delivering the right message to create positive, lasting change.

  • The goal for next year is 37,700 inspections -- and we will achieve that as well!

Outreach, education, and compliance assistance
  • Because OSHA inspects fewer than 2 percent of the businesses in the U.S. each year, we need to find other ways to reach employers and employees to reduce deaths, injuries and illnesses. Our first strategy toward that end is outreach, education and compliance assistance.

  • We've promised to expand assistance for those who want to do the right thing. To do that we have

    • 60 compliance assistance specialists
    • New Office of Small Business
    • 50 consultation programs -- one in every state
    • Expanded website, new interactive software-eTools
  • And today, we are announcing a significant expansion of our Educational Centers at community and state colleges. This is our effort to franchise our most popular safety and health training programs by working with educational institutions to offer OSHA training at sites across the U.S.

  • In 2002, we've had 12 organizations offering the OSHA training. In the future, we'll have 20 centers with 35 individual sites. Training may also be offered at additional locations. Over the next two years, we expect to double the number of students -- from 14,500 to nearly 30,000.

  • Many of the students participate in the OSHA Outreach Training Program, taking a one-week OSHA trainer course to become authorized to teach a 10-hour or 30-hour course in general industry or construction safety and health.

  • This past year, 254,000 students took 10-hour or 30-hour classes from OSHA trainers who have taken the train-the-trainer class at the OSHA Training Institute or one of the education centers.

  • We're also focusing on the special needs of Hispanic workers -- and we've taken a number of steps to reach out to Spanish-speaking workers.

    • Our toll-free help line ... 1-800-321-OSHA ... offers assistance in English and Spanish
    • A Spanish web page that will continue to grow
    • All About OSHA and many other publications in Spanish
    • Partnerships with the Hispanic Contractors of America, National Safety Council, Mexican Consulates, the Mexican Government, and many other organizations to work together on outreach, education and assistance.
New Outreach
  • OSHA has another outreach effort I want to be sure you're aware of -- QuickTakes -- our e-mail news memo. Launched in March, we already have more than 25,000 subscribers.

  • If you haven't signed on, I urge you to do so. It's free and it's fast... just 2 pages every 2 weeks, and in 2 minutes you can keep track of safety and health issues that OSHA is working on. Sign up at www.osha.gov.

Partnerships and Voluntary Programs
  • Our other focus for reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths is cooperative programs. Many of you are familiar with our premier partnership program -- the Voluntary Protection Programs. This year VPP celebrated its 20th anniversary.

  • We're very proud of the 888 VPP sites recognized for their exemplary safety and health programs. But OSHA covers 7 million sites -- so 888 is a tiny, tiny fraction of that number -- not 1% but 1/100th of 1%. We need many, many more sites on the road to excellence. The challenge is to reach for 8,000 sites!

  • As we expand VPP, we are also expanding our strategic partnerships. We now have 174 such partnerships involving more than 3,738 employers and covering nearly 194,000 workers. And they are making a positive impact.

  • For example, the Idaho General Contractors Partnership has worked to significantly reduce fatalities in Idaho's construction industry. Every site must have an effective safety and health program and the general contractor conducts audits -- 10 times more audits than OSHA could do inspections.

  • But what's really important are the results. And they are dramatic. Fatalities have dropped steadily from 25 during 1990 to 1995 to only three from 2000 to 2001. Compensable injuries are down from 25 per 100 to 14.2 over the past 10 years -- despite construction employment that more than doubled over the decade! We need more partnerships like this one!

  • We've also created a new form of partnership... Alliances.

  • Alliances focus on leveraging resources on one or more elements such as training and education, outreach and communication or promoting the value of safety and health.

  • We expect to have between 15 and 20 alliance agreements before we close out 2002. A number of these agreements focus on ergonomics -- like a recent agreement with airlines, and the ones with the printing and graphics industry, the plastics industry, American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the American Meat Institute. Alliances are an excellent way to share and promote best practices, and we're looking forward to working with these groups -- and others -- to do that.

  • Let's talk about where we're going with ergonomics.

  • As you know, this past spring, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced a new four-pronged approach to address musculoskeletal disorders. It includes industry-specific guidelines, enforcement through the general duty clause, outreach and assistance and research recommendations with the help of an advisory committee.

  • Our goal is simple. Musculoskeletal disorders represent one-third of the injuries American workers experience every year. And we want to reduce those numbers as quickly as possible. This plan is the best way to do that.

  • The whole agency is involved in this effort from the national offices to the regions to the area offices. For example, we have ergonomic coordinators in each of our 10 regional offices available to assist other OSHA staff as well as employers and employees. Our compliance assistance specialists in OSHA's area offices are available to conduct training, and our OSHA Training Institute and Education Centers are also involved.

  • As you know, we have identified three industries for OSHA guidelines -- nursing homes, retail groceries and poultry processors.

  • We issued our draft guidelines for nursing homes the end of August and took comments through October 30. Last month we met with stakeholders to further consider issues raised during the comment period. We got some really good ideas and we're looking over our approach in line with the comments we received. We hope to issue the final guidelines early next year.

  • Draft guidelines for the retail groceries and poultry processors are being developed and should be ready for publication shortly.

  • We will be identifying more industries soon.

  • In addition to the guidelines we're developing, we're looking to individual industries to work on guidelines of their own... and some are beginning to do that.

  • As an example, earlier this fall, I signed an agreement with the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and the state of North Carolina. AFMA has agreed to work with North Carolina to develop its own set of ergonomics guidelines for furniture manufacturing.

  • How can you help OSHA in developing guidelines? I challenge you to consider three ways:

    • First, as we develop and publish draft guidelines, take a look at them. They'll all be available on our website at www.osha.gov. Give us your comments and your suggestions. Help us make them as useful as possible!

    • Second, develop your own guidelines -- for your business or your industry. Move forward on your own to address MSDs.

    • Third, offer to work with us to develop and implement guidelines for your industry. We want to select industries that we can work cooperatively with to identify best practices and establish practical guidelines.

  • On enforcement... I know our approach has been touted as a voluntary program. Let me make something very clear: reducing ergonomic hazards and providing a safe workplace is not voluntary.

  • Does that mean we'll be enforcing guidelines? No, definitely not. What it does mean is if you have a problem with MSDs in your workplace, you need to address that.

  • From January 1, 2002, through November 26, OSHA has conducted 63 inspections where ergonomics was or is being investigated. Most of these inspections were initiated as part of the Site-Specific Targeting Program. The rest resulted from complaints. OSHA has issued sixteen ergonomic hazard letters advising employers that they needed to make changes in their workplace to reduce hazards that could lead to injuries. (No citations have been issued.) Many of these inspections are still open.

  • This summer we issued a national emphasis inspection program for nursing homes. Ergonomics is a chief focus, but we are also looking at hazards associated with slips, trips, and falls; bloodborne pathogens; and tuberculosis.

  • We had an initial outreach period and then nursing home inspections began in mid-September. We expect to do about 1,000.

  • From mid-September through November 17, we've begun 87 inspections under the Nursing Home National Emphasis Program. Most of these inspections are still under investigation. We have issued one ergonomic hazard letter. (No citations have yet been issued.)

  • Will we have an NEP for every industry we develop guidelines for? No. And it's important to remember that our focus when we do conduct inspections is on employers who are not acting in good faith to address musculoskeletal disorders.

  • For outreach and training assistance, OSHA is using existing programs. We're continuing to develop and expand our ergonomics webpage and add more interactive software eTools, as well as increase our focus on cooperative programs and training and education.

  • For the nursing home industry as well as other industries, unions, trade groups associations, we have held more than 150 training or other outreach events since the middle of the summer. We've reached out to employers from Bangor, Maine, to Seattle, Washington -- and scores of sites inbetween.

  • As I mentioned earlier, we'll be working through alliances to further spread information on best practices. We now have six alliances specifically devoted to reducing ergonomic injuries and illnesses and musculoskeletal disorders. These include:

    • Airlines Alliance -- 13 airlines, passenger-checked baggage
    • American Meat Institute -- best practices in meat industry
    • American Industrial Hygiene Association -- guidance on ergo programs
    • American Society of Safety Engineers -- best practices and ergonomics programs
    • Printing Industry -- ergo guidelines for printing industry
    • Society of the Plastics Industry -- ergonomics and amputations in plastics
  • All of the ergonomic alliances have specific goals addressing training and education, outreach and communication and promoting the national dialogue on workplace safety and health. Once alliances are signed, we work with our allies through formal implementation teams to identify specific projects, programs and products that the alliance will create. We want to develop products that will be useful in reducing MSDs. For example,

    • The Airlines will work with OSHA to improve its eTool on baggage handling, develop a biomechanics training module for employees and hold a workshop on ergonomics at a major safety conference.

    • The American Meat Institute will develop ergonomics training and educational materials and will provide information in Spanish and other languages.

    • The American Industrial Hygiene Association will share hazard recognition strategies and tools as well as data on solutions to ergonomic hazards with OSHA and others.

  • We've also got several additional alliances focused on ergonomics in development. We welcome others as well. I encourage you to consider joining with us in an alliance for your industry to develop training materials, identify best practices or share successful strategies for reducing ergonomic hazards with others.

  • We're also moving forward on the research front. Last week we announced our 15-member national advisory committee on ergonomics, chosen from more than 250 candidates. Each committee member brings skills and expertise that, collectively, will help the agency accelerate the decline of ergonomic-related injuries.

  • With this committee, we've assembled a balanced group of skilled experts with varied backgrounds who can provide advice on our comprehensive approach to ergonomics and help us find ways to reduce MSDs. We expect the committee will meet two to four times each year.

  • I want you to know that the charge to the committee is not just to look at gaps in the research or evaluate the science -- although that's part of their job. Even more importantly, we're looking to the advisory committee to help us reduce the science to practice. Our goal is to find practical applications for the principles found in the research.

  • Awaiting the committee's inaugural meeting is a series of issues based on OSHA's four-pronged approach, including: information related to industry- or task-specific guidelines; identifying gaps in existing research on ergonomics in the workplace; research needs and efforts; outreach and assistance methods to communicate the value of ergonomics; and increasing communication among stakeholders.

The Challenge
  • I spoke earlier about how safety and health add value -- To your business. To your workplace. To your life. And about how important it is that OSHA leads the drumbeat for that message.

  • We need your help, as concerned partners in industry, to re-state and repeat that message -- from your own perspective -- to explore it further, to expand and expound upon it. We need you to help us move the dialogue forward. To reassess the ways in which safety and health add value.

  • OSHA cannot reduce injuries and illnesses in 7 million workplaces. Only employers working with their employees can do that. Working with you is the only way for us to accomplish our mission. And we're focusing on finding solutions, not just identifying problems.

  • I know we can do this -- if we work together.

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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