John L. Henshaw
National Advisory Committee on
Occupational Safety and Health
December 8, 2004
- Good morning. I'm very pleased to join you today for your final meeting of 2004.
- I want to spend some time this morning talking about the work we've done together in 2004 and where we are headed in 2005.
- In September, BLS 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.
- Next Tuesday, BLS will be reporting the injury and illness estimates for 2003. I hope the new data will show that injuries and illnesses are continuing to decline as they have for the last decade.
- As you know, Congress is wrapping up its work on appropriations for FY 2005. The President is expected to sign the bill. OSHA's allocation affirms our commitment to employing a balanced strategy and focusing on results.
- The agency should have $468.1 million to work with -- that's an increase of $10.5 million over 2004 -- about a 2 percent increase.
- It's critical that we use those funds wisely -- to make the greatest impact on our triple bottom line. Our goal is to maintain the right mix of activities and initiatives to make the maximum impact on injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job -- and keep them moving toward zero.
- That means, first of all, strong, fair and effective enforcement. In FY 2004, we exceeded our goal for inspections -- with a final tally of 39,167 inspections.
- We cited 86,708 violations -- an increase of 3.8% over FY 03 -- and up about 10% over the past five years. We also issued 3% more serious violations and 14% more willful violations. I believe these increases demonstrate that we are targeting the right workplaces and identifying employers who repeatedly and willfully violate the law.
- In FY 04, more than 300 inspections were covered under our Enhanced Enforcement Policy. That's less than 1% of our 2004 inspections. And indeed, it's always been my contention that 99% of employers want to do the right thing. The majority of these EEP cases -- more than 80% -- involve fatalities. About half of those were at construction sites.
- For FY 05, we are again planning 37,700 inspections. And we will be using our site-specific targeting program to help us identify the individual workplaces where injury and illness rates are high.
- As I reported to you in August, we're continuing to expand our outreach, education and compliance assistance efforts. That includes more than 31,000 consultation visits last year and training for more than 335,000 individuals -- an increase of 7% over FY 2003. Web visits topped 50 million, and subscribers to QuickTakes now number more than 53,000.
- Our cooperative programs also continue to grow. At the end of FY 04 we had:
- 739 sites participating in SHARP
- 211 Strategic Partnerships covering 4,843 employers and 407,028 employees
- 1189 VPP sites covering 615,850 employees and
- 250 Alliances.
- I am excited about the expansion of these programs, the progress they've produced -- and their promise for the future. I want to turn now to a number of initiatives that we're working on. Several involve issues that NACOSH has addressed.
- First, let's talk about recordkeeping. We've 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 OSHA recordkeeping data is accurate.
- OSHA uses safety and health records for enforcement and for participation in recognition programs like VPP. Many companies also rely on OSHA data to identify other firms with good records that they want to do business with.
- As we rely more on data -- and others do as well, OSHA must 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. And we will provide additional training for our staff and increase outreach on recordkeeping.
Hazard Communication Initiative
- Another area that requires OSHA's attention is trenching. Too many workers are dying in trench collapses. There's absolutely no excuse for it.
- Shortly, I'll be sending a letter to the 400 stakeholders in construction to remind them of OSHA's trenching requirements and to offer our help to respond to any questions they may have on trench safety.
- In addition, we're going to address trenching hazards through a new Alliance that we just signed Monday with the National Utility Contractors Association. We're looking to develop a 10-hour outreach program with emphasis on trench and excavation safety.
- In addition, we will work together on fact sheets and other information promoting best practices in trenching and excavations and confined spaces. We're also encouraging NUCA members to act as mentors to utility contractors who need guidance and assistance with safety and health issues.
- OSHA also has several regional Alliances that focus on trenching safety. In New York, we have an Alliance with the New York Consultation Program and Dig Safely New York. In Atlanta, we're working with firefighters, George Tech and contractors in the Safety Awareness Facilitation Education Alliance. We also have a second, similar Alliance in Atlanta with Georgia Tech and the American Society of Safety Engineers Trench Safety Task Force.
- At your August meeting, I spoke about our Hazard Communication Initiative. Comprehensive and accurate hazard communication is the foundation of any workplace program addressing chemical safety and health issues. Since there are more than 30 million workers in the U.S. at over three million worksites who are exposed to one or more of the 650,000 hazardous chemical products covered by OSHA's hazard communication standard, the need for compliance is critical.
- This spring, we launched our hazard communication initiative on a new portal page on our website. Our goal is to assist employers in developing effective hazard communication programs. The number of hits per month on this page has more than doubled, so we do appear to be reaching more people with hazard communication information.
- We placed two draft guidance documents on the web and solicited public comment on them. One addresses hazard determination and the other, worker training. We're now revising the documents based on the comments we received. We have two additional draft guidance documents in final review. One will help preparers of safety data sheets do a better job and the other explains the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.
- As part of our Alliance with the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication, we're also developing a checklist to use to review MSDSs to be sure they include appropriate information. A number of other Alliances have added hazard communication to their areas of interest, and we're planning a roundtable early next year to discuss products they might produce jointly.
- Another issue that's been in the news lately is reactive chemicals. OSHA is working through the reactives Alliance to develop a one-day workshop on reactive hazards that could be presented around the country, free for participants. The focus will be small employers -- especially those who store chemicals or who are involved in physical processing or less complex operations. We also participate in the Reactives Management Roundtable, which is developing safe practices for reactive chemicals.
- In addition, we're drafting a series of reactive hazard guidance documents to help small employers identify reactive process hazards and to offer additional resources. One of those resources, of course, is the Center for Chemical Process Safety's book Essential Practices for Managing Chemical Reactivity Hazards, which can be downloaded from the OSHA website. We also added a webpage in October on Chemical Reactivity Hazards that expands the information available on reactives.
- We are working to educate our own compliance officers, too. OSHA has also begun work on a compliance directive focused on the 39 reactive chemicals covered under the Process Safety Management standard. This will help our CSHOs identify hazards related to reactive chemicals.
- Last time we met, we talked about the Hispanic Summit held in July. We appreciate the time and attention that NACOSH has given to safety and health for Spanish-speaking workers. I want you to know that this will be an ongoing focus for OSHA as we move into President Bush's second term.
Motor Vehicle Safety
- I also want to bring you up to date on our emergency preparedness efforts. Very shortly, we'll be posting on the web the final version of our best practices for first receivers. These are recommendations for protecting hospital workers who come into contact with victims of mass casualties -- such as terrorist attacks or chemical spills.
- We are also looking forward to being part of the rollout for the new National Response Plan, which Homeland Security is overseeing. As you know, we've been responsible for developing the Worker Safety and Health Annex, and OSHA will be the coordinating agency for worker safety and health when the NRP is activated.
- Another critical issue we need to address if we want to reduce the triple bottom line is motor vehicle safety. OSHA plans to focus 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.
- As you can see, we've been very busy since we met in August. I've just been able to touch on a few highlights this morning.
- Again, thank you for making NACOSH a priority. We appreciate your willingness to share your experience and your expertise with OSHA -- and with our nation's employers and workers. I'm looking forward to a productive session today.