International Mass Retail Association
March 12, 2003
Safety and Health Add Value
- Good afternoon. I'm delighted to join Sandy (Kennedy -- President) and so many of you to celebrate the new OSHA/IMRA Alliance we'll be signing shortly. When we work together cooperatively, I know we can accomplish great things - for your members and for their employees.
- OSHA has a very simple mission: helping employers and their workers prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job. There are nearly 115 workers at 7 million worksites that come under OSHA jurisdiction. That's a tremendous responsibility for a small agency.
- If any organization ever needed to win friends and influence people to meet its mandate, we do. We'll never be successful in driving injuries and illnesses toward zero if we don't.
- Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground." That's my philosophy. We're going to focus on the long-term vision by using the down-to-earth process of building bridges of cooperation and understanding with our stakeholders, like IMRA.
- I want OSHA to take the lead in setting the national agenda on workplace safety and health. We want to foster the dialogue on the most important safety and health issues facing American employers and workers. Toward that end, we have a clear message to deliver: Safety and health add value. To your business. To your workplace. To your life.
- The value for business is clear: focusing on safety and health programs is the right thing to do; it saves money and adds value to the organization.
- 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.
- By any measure ... Safety and health add value ... To your business... To your workplace... To your life.
- As more and more employers and workers understand and appreciate the value of safety and health, I believe we will be increasingly successful in driving injuries and illnesses down. OSHA has developed three, equally important strategies to move ahead.
- These strategies include: strong, fair and effective enforcement; outreach, education and compliance assistance; and partnerships and cooperative programs. These are the tools we have to encourage employers and workers to make safety and health on the job a top priority.
- Our first strategy is the one everyone knows about -- strong, fair and effective enforcement. Enforcement is the foundation for OSHA's efforts. Cooperative programs and partnerships build on this foundation.
- You might be surprised to learn that we actually do very few inspections in the retail industry. Federal OSHA conducted only about 660 inspections in retail stores last year -- or less than 2 percent overall.
- The number in general merchandise stores -- the category that includes many IMRA members -- was only 115 -- 3/10 of one percent of the total. And the issues of greatest concern at sites we inspected involved exits, housekeeping problems and electrical hazards.
- Clearly, our enforcement effort is limited in your industry. We need to reserve our inspection resources for those industries with many serious hazards, and we need to focus on sites where workers are actually getting hurt or sick. OSHA has an inspection targeting system that we are continually refining to do that.
Outreach, education, and compliance assistance
- OSHA has also taken a hard look at its standard setting effort. We've combined safety and health standards and renamed the office "Standards and Guidance." You'll see the results of their guidance efforts very soon with our new nursing home ergonomics guidelines. Other products -- on a wide variety of safety and health issues -- training programs, detailed information on addressing specific hazards and technical reports -- will follow.
- We've pared down our semi-annual regulatory agenda. We've stopped publishing a lengthy "wish list" and started putting out a realistic "to-do" list.
- We want everyone to know what we're really working on over the next 12 months. And you can hold us accountable for those milestones.
- I'm delighted to report that when the most recent regulatory agenda came out late last year, we met every goal on it. And we'll do it again.
- Standards and enforcement form the foundation -- but there are other, more effective ways to reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses -- and we are employing those strategies to make the biggest impact we can.
- The first is outreach, education and compliance assistance. We've promised to expand assistance for those who want to do the right thing.
- We have 67 compliance assistance specialists -- one in each of our OSHA area offices -- whose job is to help businesses with safety and health. They can provide safety and health training, guidance and encouragement. These OSHA staffers are focused solely on outreach -- not enforcement -- and they're available to help you.
- For small businesses, we also provide onsite help through the OSHA Consultation Program. Whether employers have a specific safety concern or want to develop or improve a safety and health program, they can get free help. There's an office in each state with consultants ready to assist.
- We also have 20 Education Centers -- essentially franchises for OSHA training -- that teach safety and health classes -- mostly at community colleges and universities. There's a complete listing of sites and courses on the OSHA website at www.osha.gov.
- One of the areas that demand OSHA's attention is the need to reach immigrant workers, particularly Spanish-speaking workers. Even as overall workforce fatalities have fallen, deaths among Hispanic workers have increased... up 12% in 2000 and 9% in 2001.
- We've taken a number of steps to reach out to Hispanic workers ... a toll-free help line ... 1-800-321-OSHA with assistance in English and Spanish ... a Spanish webpage ... many publications in Spanish ... 180 OSHA or state staff who speak Spanish ... partnerships with Hispanic groups ... and more.
Partnerships and Cooperative Programs
- Some of you may be aware of another outreach effort of ours -- QuickTakes -- our e-mail news memo. Launched a year ago, we now have 30,000 subscribers, with more added every day.
- 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 and QuickTakes will come to your email address.
- We also have a new youth page on our website for teen workers, their parents and educators. We're focusing information on issues and hazards most likely to affect teens.
- Our other focus for reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths is partnerships and cooperative programs.
- This effort includes several programs -- our premier employer partnership program -- Voluntary Protection Programs or VPP, OSHA Strategic Partnerships, and Alliances. We're looking to expand all of these programs significantly.
- We have a stretch goal of increasing VPP sites tenfold -- and we're looking at options for doing that. We need many, many more sites on the road to excellence.
- We're also expanding our Strategic Partnerships. We now have 178 such partnerships involving more than 6,500 employers and covering nearly 200,000 workers
- And then there's our newest partnership effort ... the one IMRA will be part of ... 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.
- In signing the agreement today, IMRA will become the 21st organization to participate in an OSHA Alliance. And we have discussions underway with another 30 or 40 groups. Alliances are open to a wide variety of organizations -- trade associations, unions, educational groups, professional societies and others. Alliances are an excellent way to share and promote best practices.
- The agreement we are about to sign specifically calls for us to work together to
- Provide your members with safety and health information and guidance.
- Reach out to IMRA members who will benefit from mentoring or guidance on safety and health programs, including ergonomics.
- We will also be agreeing to
- Develop and disseminate information through our websites, print materials and speeches and exhibits at conferences and other events.
- Promote training and education on safety, health and ergonomics issues.
- Work together to promote the national dialogue on workplace safety and health.
- Under the Alliance, OSHA and IMRA will work together through an implementation team that will meet at least quarterly. The primary focus for our efforts will be ergonomics.
- I understand that your members face a wide variety of issues and have many different types of operations. Therefore, rather seek to develop your own ergonomics guidelines, you want to work with us to focus on best practices -- and then find ways to share those best practices.
- I am delighted that you've stepped forward to address ergonomics, and we look forward to working with you on this issue. As many of you know, musculoskeletal disorders represent one-third of the injuries American workers experience every year. It's one of our top priorities to help businesses address ergonomics and prevent these injuries. Let me tell you a little bit about what we're doing.
- Last April, 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.
- We have identified three industries for OSHA guidelines -- nursing homes, retail groceries and poultry processors. The guidelines for nursing homes will be ready very soon. We expect to issue drafts on groceries and poultry processing later this spring. And within the next couple of months we plan to announce additional guidelines.
- In addition to the guidelines we're developing, we're looking to individual industries to work on guidelines of their own. The printing and graphics industry, the American Furniture Manufacturers and the Society for the Plastics Industry are all actively working on guidelines.
- About 10 other groups have formed Alliances, like IMRA, to address ergonomics. 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 have an extensive webpage devoted to ergonomics, including interactive software to help employers find practical solutions that have worked for others.
- In addition, our new 15-member National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics met for the first time in January. They'll assist us in many areas, but I've particularly asked them to begin helping us find ways to reduce science to practice in ergonomics. Small employers need practical guidance ... and we need to offer it.
- We will also be involved in enforcement. Does that mean OSHA will be enforcing guidelines? No, definitely not. But what it does mean is that employers who have problems with MSDs in the workplace need to address them.
- A primary focus for inspections will be nursing homes. We announced a national emphasis inspection program for nursing homes last summer. But we are conducting inspections in other industries as well.
- We are not going to focus our enforcement efforts on employers who have implemented effective ergonomic programs or who are making good-faith efforts to reduce ergonomic hazards.
- OSHA has a huge challenge in assuring safety and health at 7 million workplaces in the U.S. We do not take our responsibilities lightly. Nor do we assume that we can handle this challenge alone.
- Rather, our goal is to provide the leadership and the vision to help employers and employees recognize that safety and health add value -- to businesses, to workplaces and to life. And to provide a balanced approach to carrying out our mission of helping employers and employees reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths in the workplace.
- In everything we do, we are looking for ways to partner with those who share our vision. We are particularly pleased to join with IMRA in an Alliance that will enable us to work together cooperatively to address ergonomics and other safety and health issues in the retail industry.