John L. Henshaw
14th Annual Construction Safety Conference
Chicagoland Construction Safety Council
February 11, 2004
Safety and Health Add Value
- Good afternoon. I'm glad to be here to talk about safety and health and how each of us as individuals can make a difference on the jobsite.
- One way is through OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs. We're revamping those to better fit the construction business. I'm looking forward to sharing more about that with you.
OSHA Strategic Management Plan
- Over the past year, OSHA has conveyed a clear and simple truth: Safety and health add value. To your business. To your workplace. To your life.
- Recognizing that safety and health add value to every aspect of your business is the first step in building a safety culture. Companies that have done that know firsthand that superior safety and health performance bring a distinct competitive advantage to the enterprise.
- Establishing a safety and health culture that leads to superior performance is not only the right thing to do or the socially responsible thing to do.
- It is also the right economic approach. Reducing workplace injuries and illnesses conserves critical resources and improves the use of those resources. It saves money, avoids unnecessary costs and ultimately maximizes returns on business investments.
- Let me share a little with you about what OSHA has been doing and where we're headed to advance safety and health performance.
- Last year, OSHA established a five-year strategic management plan to assure we maximize our impact on the triple bottom line -- fewer injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job in the U.S.
- Over the next five years OSHA is committed to working with employers and employees to reduce:
- Workplace fatality rates by 15%
- Occupational injury/illness rates by 20%
- Our strategies for achieving these goals include a balanced use of
- Strong, fair and effective enforcement
- Outreach, education and compliance assistance
- Cooperative and voluntary programs
- We began using these strategies in earnest in 2002. And we now have evidence they work. For 2002, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a 9% reduction in construction fatalities -- a drop from 1225 to 1121.
- And in December BLS reported 4.7 million workplace injuries and illnesses with a rate of 5.3 cases per 100 fulltime workers. Construction's rate was reported at 7.1 per 100 workers.
- Because of the new reporting system, which began in 2002, the numbers are not directly comparable to the BLS statistics from 2001. Still, they are lower than the 5.2 million injuries and illnesses estimated for 2001, including the 5.7 overall rate and the 7.9 rate for construction.
- All of this is good news. It means we are on the right track. But there are still more workers killed in the construction industry than in any other major industrial sector -- double the number in manufacturing, for example.
- The injury rate in construction is nearly 40 percent higher than the rate for private industry as a whole. So we need to keep our focus, identify solutions, implement best practices, and drive those numbers down.
- One of the specific areas that we need to devote more attention to is trenching. We emphasized trenching for several years and deaths were declining, but over the past 12 months, they've begun to increase. And that's gotten a lot of attention in the press lately.
- We need to find strategies to drive those numbers down again. This is not just OSHA's responsibility, but the responsibility of everyone in the construction business.
- I'd like to see more contractors like yourselves -- those who understand the value of safety and health -- working with other contractors so they may see the light. If each contractor represented here mentored just one other contractor, we could see a lot of positive change in the next year.
- Another concern that particularly affects the construction industry is accidents and deaths among Spanish-speaking workers. The recent BLS fatality numbers show that work-related deaths among Hispanics declined in 2002. . .after several years of rising.
- We're pleased to see that. But we're still concerned, and we're doing what we can to investigate whether there is a link between language and cultural barriers and employee deaths. To date, we've learned that about 25% of the fatalities we investigate are in some way related to language or cultural barriers.
- Again, this data is preliminary. 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, through Spanish-language courses at our Educational Centers and through Alliances with organizations that address immigrant and Hispanic workers and employers
- We've also sought to reach both employers and employees through radio PSAs in Spanish. We estimate 15 million listeners have heard these messages.
- Our local offices are working with 49 Mexican consulates throughout the U.S. to promote safety and health among Hispanic workers. Together with NIOSH, we're going to hold a one and a half day Hispanic Summit in Washington this year focusing on a variety of immigrant worker safety and health issues.
- In addition, we've added two Spanish-speaking safety professionals in the Directorate of Construction to help us with outreach.
- OSHA has developed a number of joint ventures that are making a difference at construction sites across the country. In fact, we have 44 national Alliances involving the construction industry -- efforts to promote safety and health education and training.
- Two of our strongest partnerships across the country have been in the Midwest -- Lambeau Field in Green Bay and Soldier Field here -- both projects completed last year. Neither had fatalities. Both had fewer injuries and significantly lower liability and workers' comp costs than projected.
- Over the past three years in the Midwest, OSHA has had as many as 34 construction partnerships going. Eleven of these have been site-related and 23 association-related. Nearly 1,000 employers have participated, benefiting more than 9,000 employees. There have been no fatalities at any of the sites.
- I want to tell you just a little about one of our newer partnerships. In late October, we signed a Strategic Partnership with the AMEC Construction Management. This partnership covers all projects performed by AMEC in the U. S. where AMEC acts as controlling contractor and OSHA has federal jurisdiction.
- The AMEC partnership will particularly emphasize protecting workers against the four most serious hazards in construction: falls, electrical, caught in/between and struck-by. AMEC will encourage its subcontractors to participate in the partnership as well.
- In addition, the partnership includes an ergonomics component. AMEC will be implementing a voluntary corporate guideline for construction ergonomics at some of its projects. The company will report to OSHA on its results.
- Actually, as we've been discussing partnership and AMEC has focused more on safety over the past year, they already have achieved some results -- their severity rate has dropped from 10.69 to 6.15. We're looking for continued progress.
- Let's turn now to OSHA's most prestigious partnership -- the Voluntary Protection Programs. One of my personal goals has been to find a way to greatly expand VPP, especially in the construction industry.
- We're ready to move forward to broaden VPP so we can reach many more in construction. We know we need to get more contractors on board -- and we are putting the final touches on ways to do that.
- First, we're developing a new program that provides a phased entry to VPP. We're calling it Challenge -- it's a roadmap to safety excellence. There will be two tracks -- one for construction and one for general industry. And it will be run by administrators -- similar to the strategic partnerships we now have with the Associated Building Contractors and the Associated General Contractors.
- Challenge for Construction will include three stages of participation with increasing levels of commitment and performance. The goal is for worksites to move step by step to becoming a Star or Merit site. This program will begin with pilot projects later this spring.
- Our second program, VPP Construction, involves redesigning VPP to better fit the unique aspects of your industry. We're developing this program based on our short-term and mobile workforce demonstration programs. In a sense, they were the pilots for VPP Construction.
- The results from these programs have been overwhelmingly positive. Three-year TCIR averages at pilot sites ranged from 2.4 to 3.7 and three-year DART averages ranged from 0.18 to 2.3 -- all significantly below BLS averages.
- Participants implemented a number of best practices under the pilots. For example, a steel erection company required 100% fall protection over six feet and designed innovative conventional fall protection systems to accommodate the work while maintaining a high level of production.
- Further, more than 1,000 employees took the OSHA 10-hour course or equivalent training out of 3,500+ covered by the demonstration projects. I think it's significant that all seven contractors want to continue participating in VPP!
- We will launch VPP Construction by publishing a Federal Register notice formally outlining the new program. After that we'll be taking applications!
- Let me turn now to some of the current safety and health issues that contractors are facing. These haven't really changed. They include scaffolding, fall protection, tower erection and maintenance, ladders, trenching and excavations and electrical problems.
- Some of you attended this morning's panel on Telecommunication Tower Safety. That session covered OSHA's partnership in Regions V and III with the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE).
- Another hot topic is trenching and excavation. During 2003, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of job-related fatalities involving trenching and excavation.
- Preliminary data tells us that the greatest number of deaths is among workers 20-39. About three-quarters of those killed were laborers, and nearly 70 percent died in trench collapses.
- I believe we have an opportunity to focus on preventing trenching and excavation fatalities. No one should be required to work in an unsafe trench. The current OSHA standard provides the necessary guidance for safe trench work. We just need to get the word out.
- High on OSHA's agenda for the construction industry is updating the crane and derrick standard. As you know, this past July we named 23 members to Crane and Derrick Negotiated Rulemaking Advisory Committee (C-DAC).
- The committee is working very hard to develop a proposal to update the OSHA crane standard. That rule is 30 years old, and we need to respond to new technology and work practices.
- We held the first committee meeting in August -- and the committee has met every month since, including last week in Washington. C-DAC is on a fast track to draft a new subpart N by early this summer.
- Another important issue in construction is ergonomics. Musculoskeletal disorders lead all other injuries in workers' compensation costs for construction. We think the best way to address MSDs in construction is through partnerships and Alliances, like the one I mentioned earlier with AMEC. We'd welcome your recommendations and suggestions on this.
- The good news is that safety and health have improved significantly in construction. The hard part is that we still have a long way to go.
- Every day 1,300 construction workers go home injured or ill -- and three don't go home at all. With less than 7 percent of the U.S. workforce, construction experiences 20 percent of the fatalities. That's got to change.
- I thank you for joining with OSHA to make your construction sites safer places to work. Now we to join together to take a giant step further and help spread best practices that enhance safety and health performance in construction.
- I ask you to take this one step further. I want each of us -- you and me -- to be safety and health change agents. That means each of us here today needs to reach out and touch someone and get them enthusiastic about safety. If each of the people we touch reaches out to someone else, think of the positive impact we can have. Think of the enormous trickle-down effect.
- I want to make safety and health personal. Talk with your families, your loved ones, your co-workers and colleagues. Talk ABOUT your families and loved ones to your co-workers and colleagues.
- Safety and health need to go from being a priority to being a value. Priorities changes, but values don't.
- Our goal -- yours and mine -- is zero injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job in America. Together, fired with the desire to make a significant difference individually, we can get there!