Jonathan L. Snare
American Bar Association
OSH Law Committee
Key West, Florida
March 2, 2005
- Good morning. I'm delighted to join you to talk a bit about where OSHA is heading in 2005.
- As some of you may know, I joined the agency in December as Deputy Assistant Secretary. When John Henshaw left at the end of the year, I took on the role of Acting Assistant Secretary. And I serve at the pleasure of Labor Secretary Chao, however long that may be.
- I do have a legal background, and I hope that this is one forum, at least, where everyone will consider that an advantage!
- As some of you may know, I served in the Department of Labor's Solicitor's Office for almost two years as a senior advisor to the Solicitor before joining OSHA. During my time at the Department, I've worked on a wide variety of regulatory and policy initiatives as well as enforcement and litigation matters for OSHA and other DOL agencies. As a result, I developed an appreciation for the importance and value of OSHA's work.
- Prior to joining the Department of Labor, I was in private law practice in Texas. I focused on commercial litigation as well as environmental and labor/employment matters and government affairs.
- As Acting Assistant Secretary, I am working with OSHA's professional staff and Secretary Chao to set priorities for the agency, manage our efforts day to day and advance the agency's mission of reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job in America. The mission of workplace safety and health has been and will continue to be a priority for Secretary Chao. And I look forward to working with the Secretary and OSHA's entire staff to advance and promote this important mission.
- I want to make very clear that OSHA will continue with the successful approach established over the past four years by this Administration and the leadership at DOL and OSHA. At the same time, I look forward to using what we have learned from our successes the past four years, and managing all of OSHA's resources to meet the challenges of the future.
- I intend to lead OSHA in encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health on the job in America. I'll be working with OSHA's new acting deputy assistant secretary Steve Witt, who's been with OSHA since 1983. Most recently he served as Director of Standards and Guidance.
- Also on my team is Kim Lazor, newly appointed OSHA Chief of Staff. Kim previously served as a special assistant and was key to expanding OSHA's compliance assistance efforts and stakeholder outreach.
- We will continue to draw upon the expertise of others in the safety and health community. Just two weeks ago, we filled out the roster for the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health for 2005. We'll have two new members and five members reappointed for two years, including Jim Stanley, who'll be speaking here on Friday.
- As we move forward, we have a model for success in the agency's balanced approach, which includes
- Strong, fair and effective enforcement
- Outreach, education and compliance assistance
- Cooperative and voluntary programs
- These strategies are working, and we intend to continue them. Workplace injuries and illnesses have been on a downward trend for the past 11 years. Over the past five years, injury and illness rates have decreased 11 percent.
- Further, at 4.0 per 100,000 workers, the U.S. on-the-job fatality rate for 2002 and 2003 is the lowest ever recorded -- even though fatalities increased slightly in 2003. And for Hispanic workers, fatalities have fallen by 11.6% since 2001.
Strategic Management Plan
- Last month, the President announced his budget for FY 2006, which begins this coming October. He proposed a $2.8 million increase for OSHA to $467 million. This funding will support our existing programs and maintain our staff at 2,208. There is an increase for enforcement to cover inflation.
- The proposed budget includes three specific changes: two increases and one decrease. There is an additional $1 million for state plan states to expand compliance assistance programs. There's $1 million more for improving our data analysis and performance measurement capabilities. And the training grant program would be eliminated in light of the many other training opportunities available.
Outreach, Education and Compliance Assistance
- We also have a detailed blueprint for moving ahead both this year and next -- our five-year Strategic Management Plan. This plan dovetails with the overall mission and priorities of the Department of Labor and puts us on target to achieve our major objectives by 2008:
- Reducing the occupational death rate by 15 percent and
- Cutting the occupational injury and illness rate by 20 percent
- As we look at the year ahead, I want to talk with you briefly about our outreach and partnership efforts and then focus in more detail on our enforcement program and the standards and guidance projects we are working on.
Cooperative and Voluntary Programs
- OSHA is committed to expanding outreach, education and compliance assistance. We are continuing to put additional information on our website and making it more accessible -- such as our recently added Spanish Compliance Assistance page. We're projecting 64 million web visitors in 2005 -- a 10 percent increase over last year.
- There are now more than 57,000 subscribers to our bi-weekly electronic newsletter QuickTakes. And we project that more than 335,000 will receive training this year through OSHA-sponsored programs such as the Outreach Training Program, the OSHA Training Institute, the Ed Centers and the training grants program.
- We will continue our work on compliance assistance initiatives on recordkeeping, hazard communication, trenching and reactive chemicals -- as well as motor vehicle safety for federal workers. And we will focus special attention on Hispanic and other immigrant workers and employers.
- In 2005, OSHA will maintain its emphasis on cooperative and voluntary programs. As you know, we launched two pilot programs last year to increase participation in VPP, our premier partnership program. Today we have more than 1,230 sites participating.
- OSHA Challenge offers a three-step process to help workplaces get ready for VPP. We have nine Challenge administrators working with us in the pilot to shepherd worksites along to get ready for VPP.
- A month ago, we approved the first corporation -- Georgia Pacific -- under OSHA's VPP Corporate pilot. This program streamlines the VPP application process for companies that have many facilities in the program and are committed to bringing additional sites in. Six corporations, plus the U.S. Postal Service, are participating in this pilot.
- We're also working on VPP for Construction -- an effort to better align VPP to fit the special needs of the construction industry. We are looking at the results of the pilot program for VPP for Construction to determine the best way to proceed in the future. We hope that VPP will become a "seal of approval" within the construction industry and that it will be used to pre-qualify contractors and sub-contractors.
- Our other cooperative programs are also growing. We now have 736 small businesses in SHARP and 304 Alliances to promote the value of safety and health and increased training and outreach.
- We also have 221 Strategic Partnerships, including one signed last summer that will benefit more than 750,000 workers in the electrical transmission and distribution industry.
- Let's turn now to enforcement -- which is what I think you all want to hear about. We intend to continue a strong, fair and effective enforcement program. We are projecting 37,700 inspections for FY 2005 -- the same number planned for FY 2003 and 2004. The proposed budget for FY 2006 envisions the same number.
- In 2004, we exceeded our target, completing 39,167 inspections. And Rich and others will talk with you in more detail about those inspections later.
- Our mainstay for zeroing in on the right sites to inspect is Site Specific Targeting. SST identifies individual employers in general industry and maritime with the highest injury and illness rates.
- Very soon, I will send a letter to 13,000-14,000 sites from the 80,000 surveyed earlier on injury and illness rates. The letter will inform the sites that their rates are significantly higher than average and suggest strategies for reducing injuries and illnesses among their workers. Then, we will begin inspecting several thousand sites with the highest rates.
- A study last year of Site Specific Targeting shows that it is making a difference. That evaluation, sponsored by the Department, found that companies that received our letter, but were not inspected, reduced injuries and illnesses about 5% over the three years following the letter. But the sites that were actually inspected had injury and illness declines ranging from 12 to 13.8% over the three years following our inspection.
- As you know, we also have other strategies for inspection targeting.
- As part of OSHA's strategic management plan, the Agency has been looking at ways to improve OSHA's health outcomes. We target our health inspections based on our experience and knowledge of where specific health hazards are likely. Toward that end, four task groups have been working on a variety of health measures including:
- A revised training curriculum for industrial hygienists
- Improved targeting of inspection -- health-based local and national emphasis programs
- Industrial hygiene-related outreach and materials development
- Measurement criteria specific to industrial hygiene
- We use business reports of construction activity to target construction inspections.
- In addition, we currently have five National Emphasis Programs. These focus on specific safety and health issues including amputations, lead, silica, ship breaking and trenching. We also have more than 140 Local Emphasis Programs, developed by our 10 regional offices and our 67 local offices. About 20,000 of our inspections result from emphasis programs.
- The agency also plans a special focus -- both in enforcement and compliance assistance -- on the seven priority industries identified in our strategic plan:
- Oil and gas field services
- Fruit and vegetable processing
- Concrete and concrete products
- Steel works
- Ship building and repair
- In 2005, we will also continue with the Enhanced Enforcement Program that John Henshaw described to you last year. EEP zeroes in on employers with the gravest violations who have failed to take their safety and health responsibilities seriously.
- In Fiscal Year 2004, we had 313 inspections classified as EEP cases. That's less than 1% of OSHA's inspections for the year. But these are the cases and violations we really want to focus and follow up on.
- By far the largest number of these EEP cases -- more than 80% -- involve fatalities with high gravity violations. About 55% of the EEP cases involved construction. Of the other 45%, about half were in manufacturing, and the rest were in other industries.
- OSHA is looking to better address cases that might be referred for criminal prosecution in several ways. Most importantly, we are providing specialized training to our compliance officers.
- Since last fall, we've held two specialty criminal investigation courses, similar to a course offered some years ago at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. We'll hold another session this coming August.
- These two-week classes are designed for experienced compliance officers and focus on the concepts and principles of criminal law. Our goal is to make sure that our compliance officers understand how to conduct effective investigations to ensure that we have the information and evidence prosecutors need should the cases go to court. The Department of Justice has provided excellent technical and instruction assistance to us in these courses.
- We're also pursuing other options to address what we believe is often a nexus between companies that have failed to live up to their responsibilities to protect their workers and those that have failed to live up to their responsibilities to protect the environment. In fact, at many companies, the same person oversees worker safety and health and environmental safety.
- We are looking at working with the Department of Justice in a variety of ways, above and beyond the important training effort that I just described. Howard Radzely will address this in more detail during his presentation.
- Most employers understand that safety and health add value, appreciate their legal obligations to safeguard their workers, or at least want to avoid civil penalties. However, for a few employers, perhaps the threat of felony charges and significant criminal penalties will persuade them to do the right thing -- or avoid doing the wrong thing.
- In any case, OSHA will draw on all the tools available to make a difference in the workplace, to reduce injuries, illnesses and deaths on the job.
- Let me shift now to standard setting. In FY 2005, we will continue work on the standards that are on our regulatory agenda. Last fall, we issued a proposed standard for hexavalent chromium, and last month we held two weeks of hearings on the proposal. We're analyzing comments and testimony now with a goal of promulgating a final rule next January.
- Earlier in this fiscal year we issued a final rule for the Standards Improvement Project. We also launched a logical, systematic effort to update the consensus standards over the next several years. As you know, many of these standards date from the 1970's -- or even earlier -- and we need to tackle the job of bringing them up to date.
- Over the next eight months, we expect to issue proposals for electric power transmission and distribution in construction, confined spaces in construction, general working conditions in shipyards, and explosives. We also expect to have final action on assigned protection factors for respirators, employer payment for PPE and electrical safety.
- During this year, we'll be working on the proposals for crystalline silica and beryllium. For cranes and derricks, we're looking at whether a SBREFA process is needed. If so, we'll move forward with that process or we'll move directly to a proposal later this year.
- We're also developing guidance products. We're working on tuberculosis, mold, hazard communication, PPE for emergency responders, metal recycling and other topics.
- In addition, we're continuing with our four-pronged approach to ergonomics. We are also exploring other emerging issues such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, an important issue for addressing occupational health and safety in the global economy. We are also exploring control banding, a novel approach to addressing workplace exposures that relies less on expensive exposure monitoring, and nanotechnology, a cutting edge technology for which the health and safety implications are not yet known.
- I want to say just a few words about beryllium. As many of you know, OSHA has had an ongoing program of medical monitoring for our own compliance officers. As part of this program, 271 OSHA staff have been tested for sensitization to beryllium. We expect to make the complete results of this testing available shortly.
- I want to make clear that in offering the testing, OSHA was fulfilling its responsibilities as an employer, based on the best information available to us at this time. That does not mean that the agency has made a decision on the appropriateness of screening for the beryllium proposal we're now working on.
- These decisions will be determined in the rulemaking process, and we are now just in the early phase of that process. We are evaluating the entire range of options as to whether changes need to be made to current limits to beryllium exposure. We continue to gather data, and we are preparing materials for a SBREFA panel.
- As you can see, we expect to be busy in 2005. I'm looking forward to working with you as we move ahead. We may not always agree on all the issues, but we all share the same goal-reducing injuries, illnesses and deaths among our nation's workforce.
- I will be staying on through tomorrow and hope to have the chance to meet many of you. This ABA meeting is a great opportunity for OSHA to interact with attorneys with many different viewpoints, and I appreciate being part of it.
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