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Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 10/28/2003
• Presented To: National Occupational Injury Research Symposium
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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
National Occupational Injury
Research Symposium
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
October 28, 2003

  • Good morning. Thank you for that kind introduction. I'm very pleased to be with you today to address recent findings, research opportunities and best practices on occupational injury prevention.

  • As safety and health professionals, the word "prevention" is not just a watchword or slogan for us, it is our Animus. From the Latin, this means our soul, character -- our basic attitude or animating spirit; our disposition; our intention.

  • But before we can focus on prevention, we must know "what is" in order to determine "what can be." And that is the purpose of our meeting today.

  • I want to talk with you this morning about OSHA's activities and where we are headed and where research could be helpful in conjunction with our Strategic Management Plan in promoting injury prevention in America's workplaces.
Safety and Health Add Value
  • One way to accomplish our goal of injury and illness prevention -- and one could argue a more sustainable way -- is selling the value and transfering the ownership of workplace safety and health to the workplace itself. Over the past year, we've tried to deliver a clear and simple message: Safety and health add value. To your business. To your workplace. To your life.

  • Our goal is for every employer and employee in our country to build a safety culture at their workplace. The first step is recognizing the value of a safe, healthful work environment.

  • As safety and health professionals we recognize that safety and health adds value to a business. It's not only the right thing to do, the socially responsible thing to do, but it saves critical resources. It saves money, avoids costs and maximizes returns on business investments.

  • Liberty Mutual estimates that between $155 billion to $232 Billion is spent annually on workers' compensation. And the costs continue to climb at an alarming rate. Not all businesses see this, but we must continue to find ways to show them the way. Or as stated in a popular movie "Show me the money."

  • Safety and health also add value to the workplace. Benefits include greater productivity, higher quality, increased morale, reduced turnover and other tangible benefits. This needs to be articulated in business terms as well.

  • And clearly, safety and health add value to one's life. For workers, getting hurt or sick is not just physically painful. It can reduce income, increase stress and hinder a full family life. Workers need to understand this clearly enough to assure personal ownership of their actions and ultimately their safety.

  • To us, the case for safety and health is clear. But we need to find additional ways to articulate the value in regulatory, business, social and personal terms. We need more examples of the clear business case supporting the truth that safety and health add value.

  • We are working through several Alliances to help address this. For example, Abbott Laboratories is developing case studies -- business cases around the value of safety and health. We met the beginning of this month to discuss the second phase of this project -- including involving other stakeholders and universities.

  • Georgetown University is also working with us to use case studies on both the economic and ethical dimensions of safety and health in its graduate business program and the public.

  • The Dow Chemical Company has worked with us on an ergonomics case study based on proven practices at its worksites and is planning a case study on motor vehicle accidents. And we like what NIOSH has done on Nursing Homes. We need to get that and more information out to the medium and small businesses.

  • To accomplish our goal, we need to find better ways to sell value and articulate this value in terms employers and workers understand. Then we must get them to take responsibility for their workplaces and their behaviors so they can realize the value. We need your help to do that.
Expanding VPP
  • One group of companies that knows the value of safety and health is OSHA's VPP participants. And we are looking for ways to get more facilities into VPP.

  • Just last Friday; we raised the VPP flag at Titleist Ball Plant II in New Dartmouth, Massachusetts -- recognizing this top flight golf ball manufacturer as the 1000th VPP site.

  • We now have 1024 sites in VPP. And what separates them from other workplaces is that they are driven -- internally -- to improve safety and health performance. They have seen the value and are striving for more.

  • We want more worksites to be driven like this and realize the value. Our goal is to dramatically increase the number of VPP sites -- from 1,000 to 8,000 -- or even more! We think we've come up with some good strategies, announced last month at the VPP Participants' Association annual conference.

  • If the pilots work out, these initiatives could encourage twice as many into VPP in just a few years. The new initiatives include VPP Challenge, VPP Corporate and VPP Construction.

    • VPP Challenge -- a phased entry to achieving superior programs and performance. This program is for workplaces that have the desire but have not established all the systems and results to achieve VPP STAR or MERIT status. We want to get them on the road of compliance and injury and illness prevention.
    • VPP Corporate -- a streamlined application and entry process for corporations that are seeking to bring a significant number of sites into VPP.
    • VPP Construction -- separate criteria for construction sites to address that industry's needs -- based on evaluation of our current demonstration programs.
OSHA 5-Year Plan
  • As many of you know, OSHA has developed a five-year strategic management plan to guide us through the years ahead. The bottom line on our plan is very simple.

  • It's reducing the rate of fatalities by at least 15% and the rate of injuries/illnesses by at least 20%.

  • Our strategic management plan is data-driven. We've analyzed where injuries, illnesses and fatalities are occurring. Now we need to implement strategies to prevent them. Your research into how and why injuries occur and what prevention measures are effective can contribute greatly to our effort.

  • As we move forward, we are planning to take a balanced approach to achieve maximum results, the best return on investment. We'll be focusing on performance measures, outcomes, and leading and trailing measures to determine our impact.
Immigrant Workers
  • One area of particular concern is immigrant workers. The recent Bureau of Labor Statistics fatality numbers show that work-related deaths among Hispanics declined in 2002 ... after several years of rising. That's good news.

  • But there's more to the story. While deaths among native-born Hispanics dropped significantly, deaths among foreign-born Spanish-speaking workers actually rose.

  • OSHA takes these deaths very seriously. Since 2002, we've been trying to find out whether there is a link between language and cultural barriers and employee deaths.

  • On every fatality we investigate, our field officers now check to determine if workers were immigrants, or Hispanics, or spoke a language other than English or experienced any other language barrier. If this is the case, we ask our investigators to dig deeper to get additional background information.

  • To date, we have found that about 25% of the fatalities we investigate do involve one of these factors. But in some metropolitan areas, the rate is even higher -- 57% in New York City and 54% in the greater Houston area. This data is preliminary, and we're just beginning to examine it and look for ways to use the information to find better ways to reduce deaths on the job.

  • Meanwhile, we believe our best approach is a continuing -- and increasing -- emphasis on outreach to Hispanic workers ... through our Spanish webpage, through a Spanish option on our toll-free helpline, through 180 staffers who speak Spanish, and through 32 training grants.

  • We've also sought to reach both employers and employees through radio PSAs in Spanish. In addition, we're developing a new immigrant video, and we will focus first on Spanish-speaking workers.

  • Our local offices are working with 55 Mexican consulates throughout the U.S. to promote safety and health among Hispanic workers. President Bush has also requested $2.2 million in new funding for 2004 for outreach to Spanish and non-English-speaking workers.

  • Together with NIOSH, we're going to hold a one and a half day Hispanic Summit in Washington in 2004 focusing on a variety of immigrant worker safety and health issues. We'll invite elected government officials, federal agencies, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, community-based organizations, non-profits, industry, academia, labor, the Mexican government and others.

  • Specifically, the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health recommended that we:

    • Showcase success stories.
    • Gather information/recommendations for future activities.
    • Highlight current OSHA/NIOSH efforts.
    • Create new networks among participants.
High Hazard Industries and High Injury Sites
  • In seeking to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, OSHA is going to focus both on specific sites where injury rates are high and specific industries. We will continue targeting specific workplaces for inspection through our traditional data collection and site specific targeting programs.

  • In Fiscal Year 2004, we expect to conduct about 3,500 inspections at these targeted sites. We will also encourage priority consultations for small businesses among workplaces with high injury and illness rates.

  • In addition, during FY 2004, we are concentrating OSHA resources on seven specific industries where there are many severe injuries -- at least 5,000 in each industry. In addition, half of the lost workday injuries are severe enough to cause injured workers to miss at least six days of work.

  • These seven focus industries include:

    • Landscaping/horticultural services
    • Oil and gas field services
    • Fruit and vegetable processing
    • Concrete and concrete products
    • Blast furnace and basic steel products
    • Ship and boat building and repair
    • Public warehousing and storage
  • Over the next year, we expect to conduct nearly 1,400 inspections at sites in these industries as well as 1,050 consultation visits.

  • In addition, we expect to form more than 30 new Alliances, a number of new strategic partnerships and welcome about a dozen establishments in these industries into our Voluntary Protection Program. We hope to reach more than 500 sites through outreach programs.
Nontraditional Issues
  • Beyond immigrant workers, we need to communicate with other hard-to-reach workers such as contract workers, those who have more than one job or change jobs often.

  • We are addressing teen workers -- to remind them of child labor restrictions-like the prohibition against operating forklift trucks. And we want them to begin their working lives with safety in mind -- on their first job -- and every other job they hold!

  • Our new teen worker website emphasizes safety issues in typical teen jobs -- like restaurant and fast food positions, retail sales and janitorial work. We also have eTools -- interactive software -- focused on restaurants and agricultural work -- on the teen worker webpage.

  • In addition to specific groups of workers and employers, we are also going to be addressing nontraditional areas. This includes homeland security and workplace emergencies, motor vehicle fatalities, and workplace violence.

  • OSHA will continue to play a major role in homeland security. We have firmly established our responsibility as a key agency for worker safety and health in emergencies as part of the National Response Team.

  • Also, OSHA is adding helpful materials to its website for first responders and skilled support personnel. We will be announcing specific training in this area very soon. We are also developing two new eTools -- one on emergency site safety and health plans and another on the operation of the incident command system.

  • We're also working on motor vehicle safety through our Alliances -- developing electronic assistance tools and sharing case studies. Specifically, we're working with the Independent Electrical Contractors, the Air Conditioning Contractors of American, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety and the National Safety Council on motor vehicle safety.

  • Another area that concerns us is workplace violence. The good news is that homicides have declined 44% since a 1994 high point. But homicides are still the third leading cause of death in the workplace -- accounting for 11% of workplace deaths in 2002. And about two million workers every year are assaulted on the job -- usually by patients, customers or clients.

  • OSHA is seeking to address workplace violence through outreach efforts and an Alliance with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses. We have also worked with several organizations representing taxi drivers. Four of our Susan Harwood training grantees are concentrating on this issue as well.
  • Over the next five years, OSHA will continue Secretary Chao's four-pronged approach to ergonomics. One of those prongs is research.

  • In response to a request from the National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics, we will be holding a symposium for published researchers to discuss research methodologies and issues in ergonomics on January 27, 2004. "Musculoskeletal and Neurovascular Disorders -- The State of Research Regarding Workplace Etiology and Prevention" will be held in Washington, in conjunction with the next advisory committee meeting.

  • The one-day symposium will include up to four 90-minute sessions with a total of six to twelve researchers. In our call for abstracts we indicated we plan to focus on definitions and diagnoses of MSDs, cause and work-relatedness, exposure-response relationships, intervention studies and study designs.
  • Someone once said, "The common facts of today are the products of yesterday's research." Intuitively, we know that safety and health add value. But your work verifies and informs our assertions.

  • Your research benefits safety and health professionals and brings value to all those who care about keeping workers safe and healthy. I look forward to learning more about what you are doing and how we can work more effectively 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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