John L. Henshaw
Greater St. Louis Safety
and Health Conference
St. Louis, Mo.
November 3, 2004
- Good afternoon. I'm glad to be back home again. It's good to see so many familiar faces and to know that the commitment to safety and health remains strong in Missouri.
- I want to focus today on both the progress we are making and the challenges that lie ahead. To move forward we will need your innovative and creative ideas to continuously improve.
- Like you, as a safety and health professional, I am interested in one thing -- results -- reducing what I call the triple bottom line (TBL) of injuries, illnesses and loss of life.
- As someone once said, "The world is not interested in the storms you encountered, but whether you brought in the ship."
- I wouldn't say that our ship has come in until we reach our ultimate goal of zero -- a triple bottom line of zero. Last month the Bureau of Labor Statistics released fatality data for 2003. While the actual number of fatalities rose slightly -- by 25 -- the rate of fatalities per 100,000 workers remained the same at 4.0, due to an increase in employment in 2003.
- But the disappointing fact about these numbers is that 5,559 workers lost their lives in 2003. This is totally unacceptable.
- Let's unpack the numbers a little further. In 2002, we had the largest percentage drop in fatalities and the fatality rate since the census of fatalities began. In 2003, there were 61 MORE deaths from assaults and violence and 114 MORE deaths among the self-employed than in 2002. If you subtracted these deaths -- among workers OSHA doesn't cover and related to third party violence -- then there is a good decline in fatalities. But even that explanation is not good enough. We must do better.
- As I said earlier, the ultimate measure of our success is the number of injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job. As some of you know, I am a sailor. And I have a compass on my desk as a reminder to me to set the proper course to reach that ultimate zero in injuries, illnesses and loss of life on the job. It reminds me to stay the course and constantly check our course to assure that we achieve maximum progress toward that target and maximum return on our investment.
- Our course is a balanced approach with:
- strong, fair and effective enforcement as the critical underpinning
- outreach, education and compliance assistance as a major assistance tool
- and partnerships and cooperative programs to provide encouragement and incentives to achieve even greater success.
- Let's look at enforcement. We've increased inspections by nearly 10% from 2000 to 2004. The final numbers are still being tabulated and checked, but when the dust settles, OSHA will have completed more than 39,000 inspections for 2004.
- We've strengthened our inspection process to achieve better results toward the triple bottom line by establishing an Enhanced Enforcement Program. Briefly, EEP is for cases where there's been a fatality with a related high-gravity serious violation OR where there are three or more high-gravity serious violations classified as willful or repeat OR two or more failure to abate citations with underlying high-gravity serious violations
- Our preliminary data show that less than 1% of our 2004 inspections fall into this category. And indeed, it's always been my contention that 99% of employers want to do the right thing. The concern I want to point out is that the majority of these EEP cases -- more than 80% -- involve fatalities. About half of those were at construction sites.
- All of these cases will receive extra scrutiny and review. Where the circumstances warrant it, cases will be referred to Justice for consideration for criminal prosecution.
- We're also improving our inspection targeting system. A recent study showed that our site specific targeting (SST) program is effective.
- After we sent letters to 14,000 employers who had high injury and illness rates -- their injury and illness rates improved by 5% over the subsequent three years. And when we followed up with an inspection of the workplace, they experienced a 12% to 13.8% drop in injuries and illnesses over the next three years.
- This summer, we asked for public comments on the SST program, so that we can make it even more effective.
- We've also begun a recordkeeping initiative to assure the quality of injury and illness data. Just as companies audit their data to assure their stockholders and the public that it's reliable, we need to assure that recordkeeping data is accurate.
- OSHA uses safety and health records for enforcement and for participation in recognition programs like VPP. Other companies may use them as well to identify companies with good records that they want to do business with.
- With greater reliance on the data, we need to build in a quality assurance effort. First and foremost, this means that we need to provide additional tools to help employers understand the recordkeeping standard and conduct their own audits of their records. We will be adding more FAQ's to our website as well as developing a recordkeeping handbook.
- The handbook will be similar to the old "blue book" except we envision an interactive program at www.osha.gov. We will also make the handbook available on CD-ROM and print a limited number of copies. We will also provide additional training for our staff and increase outreach on recordkeeping.
Better Professionals at OSHA
- We are also improving our personnel's skills and knowledge and upgrading our processes. We have almost doubled the number of certified OSHA professionals in just three years. In the near future, we will double it.
- And through our OSHA Training Institute, we are revising our training program for compliance officers, which we expect to begin at this time next year.
- Our revised training program focuses on 20 job competencies. It will increase required training from the current 8 weeks to a 10- to 12-week program.
- Last month, we offered the first session of our new "Criminal Investigation Course" to improve our investigative abilities to support criminal actions if necessary. We had 25 OSHA staff in that first class, and we will be offering it again the end of this month and next August.
- I am proud of our regulatory agenda and what we are accomplishing. The regulatory agenda is no longer providing cover for us -- and believe me, I have experienced that lack of cover.
- But it lists what we are really working on. These are the items for which there is a measurable outcome or milestone that can be identified in the next 12 months. You can -- and you should -- hold us accountable for meeting the commitments in the agenda.
Outreach, education and compliance assistance
- We've expanded our webpage offerings. We now have more than 45 eTools. We have MyOSHA and QuickStart to help our 50 million visitors navigate through our website. QuickTakes -- our email newsletter -- now has over 50,000 subscribers.
- Our expanded toll-free helpline (1-800-321-OSHA) will handle more than 160,000 calls this year -- up 17% in just the past two years.
- And in 2004, more than 335,000 individuals were trained in safety and health through outreach trainers, Susan Harwood grants, OSHA Education Centers and the OSHA Training Institute. That's 7% more than last year.
- OSHA Education Centers, like the consortium that St. Louis University is part of, are a key component of our training effort. More than 180 students were trained at St. Louis University or its partners Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the Greater Omaha chapter of the National Safety Council during the past year.
- We especially appreciate St. Louis taking the lead in developing and presenting the new disaster site worker outreach training. In 2002 and 2003, the University also trained more than 5,000 workers as part of a Susan Harwood Grant focused on ergonomics in the construction, primary metals, air transportation and healthcare industries.
Partnerships and cooperative programs
- We have substantially expanded every partnership program over the past three years:
- 1,180 VPP sites -- up by 2/3 since 2000. There are 29 in Missouri.
- 789 SHARP participants -- nearly doubled over the past 3 years -- including 6 in Missouri
- More than 240 Alliances -- from 11 when we began in 2002
- And 238 Strategic Partnerships
- For example, OSHA has an Alliance with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis. This Alliance seeks to promote training and sharing of Spanish-language safety and health publications and participation in OSHA cooperative programs.
- Our St. Louis Area Office is also involved in three Strategic Partnerships -- with nine nursing homes, with the Mason Contractors and with the Associated General Contractors. The objective of all these partnerships is to strengthen safety and health management systems with a goal of reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job.
- As you know, I am a strong believer in OSHA's premier partnership -- the Voluntary Protection Programs. I was committed to those programs when I was at Astaris, Solutia and Monsanto. And as head of OSHA, I am eager to dramatically expand VPP.
- The reason is simple: VPP sites have superior safety and health programs and injury and illness rates more than 50% below thee averages for their industries. That's why we've set a challenge goal of getting 8,000 sites in the program.
- And we have a strategy for moving us toward that goal.
- We have three new initiatives. The first, OSHA Challenge, offers a three-phase steppingstone to VPP. We launched the pilot in May with nine charter administrators who will sponsor about 10 sites each.
- We have also begun our VPP Corporate pilot program, which is an effort to streamline the application and review process for organizations who have a strong corporate oversight program and who want to bring their workplaces into VPP.
- We have six corporations and the U.S. Postal Service piloting this program.
- The third part of our VPP expansion is VPP Construction. Two months ago, we published a proposal in the Federal Register to modify VPP to better fit the needs of the construction industry. By providing a way for short-term, mobile workplaces to qualify for VPP STAR or Merit, we are creating a better way for contractors, owners, and the public to recognize construction organizations and worksites that have superior safety and health programs and performance.
- VPP Construction will be a great help for those who pre-qualify contractors and subcontractors before they do the work.
- This is the most significant addition to our Voluntary Protection Programs in over 20 years, and it has the potential to make a significant impact on the triple bottom line in an industry with a high rate of injury and illness and loss of life.
- You have my word; we will do this in a way that will maintain the quality and integrity of VPP.
- Another critical issue is emergency preparedness. OSHA's efforts at the World Trade Center Disaster Site established the foundation for our role in national emergency preparedness today.
- As a result of our work in this and other disasters, I think more people are more aware than ever before that worker safety is a critical component of domestic emergency preparedness and response efforts.
- We've been working with the Department of Homeland Security on a variety of issues including role of safety officers in the incident command system and the new National Response Plan for emergencies of all types. This document states clearly that OSHA has the lead in coordinating worker safety and health efforts.
- We're also developing best practices for first receivers -- healthcare personnel who assist disaster victims. And we have interactive software on our website for anyone who wants to know more about the incident command system.
- And, of course, there's the disaster site worker training program that St. Louis University is involved in. Workers who take the 16-hour class plus the 10-hour construction outreach training will receive a disaster site worker course card. Those who also take the 40-hour hazardous waste operations and emergency response training will receive a disaster site worker training program card.
- Finally, we have created Special Response Teams. These are teams of seven to eleven experts that we can deploy rapidly when an emergency occurs. Each team will focus on a different speciality: toxic chemicals, biological agents, ionizing radiation or structural collapse hazards, and they will support OSHA's regional office response.
- During the hurricanes this fall in Florida, OSHA provided technical assistance and outreach. I also recorded several PSA's on safety and health issues for those involved in the recovery efforts.
- We've had positive feedback on our work there. And we are prepared to step in again when disaster strikes.
- Our goal is to be ready when an incident occurs to support our nation's efforts to minimize the impact of the incident and assure those involved are properly protected.
- We're continuing to increase our outreach to Hispanic employers and workers.
- In July in Orlando, we held the first ever DOL-OSHA Hispanic Safety and Health Summit for more than 500 workers, employers and others.
- We discussed language and cultural barriers as well as fears and obstacles recent immigrants face as they try to make a living in a new country.
- The purpose of the Summit was to identify and share best practices. We heard from the Operating Engineers, Dell Computer, Miller & Long, and many, many others are addressing the influx of immigrant workers.
- The Summit was a great success, as the 500-plus attendees can attest. And the good news from the BLS fatality census is that Hispanic deaths on the job are down another 6% on top of a 6% drop in 2002 -- and a first ever 10% drop in fatalities among foreign-born Hispanics. But we need to do more.
Motor Vehicle Safety
- Now one of the most critical issues we need to address if we want to reduce the triple bottom line is motor vehicle safety. OSHA plans to address this concern by focusing first on federal employees.
- The single best proven way to reduce deaths in motor vehicle crashes is to increase the use of seat belts. In September at the National Safety Council in New Orleans, we launched a seat belt promotional campaign for federal workers called Every Belt -- Every Ride.
- Federal employees are required by an executive order to wear their seat belts in every station and every vehicle when traveling on public business. That includes government cars, private vehicles and taxis. And it doesn't matter whether they are driving or riding as a passenger -- front seat or back. They must buckle up -- every belt -- every ride. Our campaign will remind them of their obligation and the benefits of buckling up.
- OSHA has several other motor vehicle safety initiatives already in place. For example, we're working with the FedNet team of seven federal departments to promote safe driving among teen workers.
- We have an Alliance with the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to share information on best practices. Together, we are working on printed materials, electronic tools on fleet safety and developing a joint presentation on safe driving practices.
- We have established a Motor Vehicle Safety page on the OSHA website with the help of NETS and through our Alliance with the National Safety Council.
- The page also includes a number of very useful documents developed by NIOSH.
- In closing, OSHA has made tremendous progress in 2004. But we must continue to search for innovative ways to impact the triple bottom line and improve our return on investment.
- While I am very proud of what we have accomplished over the years, I am more excited about the future and the gains yet to be realized.
- Because of all our efforts here and elsewhere and close working relationships more workers will go home to their families healthy and sound than ever before.
- That is what I live for. That is what OSHA exists for, and that is what we all work for.