Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||10/26/2006|
| Presented To:||American Iron and Steel Institute and Metals Service Center Institute|
| Speaker:||Edwin G. Foulke Jr.|
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
|American Iron and Steel Institute
Board of Directors
|and||Metals Service Center Institute
7:30 a.m. Thursday, October 26, 2006
Thank-you for that kind introduction and warm welcome.
I think someone would have to be living on the Moon not to know that in the last 50 years the iron and steel industry has seen a lot of ups and downs - especially a lot of "downs" - and so it is only natural that you have asked me here because you are eager for some good news.
In looking over some of the public speeches recently delivered by the leaders in the American Iron and Steel Institute and also the Metals Service Center Institute (and thank-you for posting your remarks online!) I realized that OSHA and the metals industries are in the same business: We want to see these industries economically succeed.
Which is why it is a genuine pleasure to speak with you today about a subject that is near and dear to my heart: How we can work together to protect your most precious business resource: your employees.
You know, Ronald Reagan said "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" You also know that President Reagan had a great sense of humor and a great love of public service. It was not government that he distrusted as much as bureaucracy that stood in the way of public servants serving The People.
So, as a public servant representing your government, I am here today to talk with you about how we can work together toward the same goal of success.
ALLIANCE WITH THE STEEL GROUP
I want to thank everyone involved with the Alliance that OSHA has enjoyed with the iron and steel industry. We initiated the Alliance in July 2004, and most recently we renewed it in August 2006.
The signatories of the Alliance are known collectively as "The Steel Group." They include the:
American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)OSHA and The Steel Group have been working together to provide the steel manufacturing industry with information, guidance, and mentoring that will help them protect their employees' health and safety.
Specialty Steel Industry of North America (SSINA)
Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA)
The Steel Group's website on the OSHA Alliance recently added links to OSHA's safety and health and training resources - such as personal protective equipment, workplace substance abuse, fall protection, our Hexavalent Chromium Safety and Health Topics pages, and the Lockout/Tagout eTool.
Through our Alliance, Ron Herring, Safety Manager for Chaparral Steel, worked with OSHA to develop a case study on his company's Manager Accountable Safety and Health Program. Ron also worked with OSHA to develop a success story that focuses Chaparral Steel's simple but effective use of soap and water in a spray bottle to identify leaking hose connections in cutting torches. Both the case study and the success story are posted on our website. This is a great example of how OSHA and a business can work together to share helpful information for a whole industry.
Through our Alliance, the Steel Group provided input and industry expertise as OSHA developed our Basic Steel Products Safety and Health Topics page. The page was posted on OSHA's website this summer [in June 2006], and highlights our standards, directives and interpretations as they apply to the basic steel industry. The page also identifies workplace hazards and solutions, and provides a host of other resources. I also want to mention OSHA's Alliance with the Crane Manufacturers Association of America, the Hoist Manufacturers Institute and the Monorail Manufacturers Association, who also contributed to this safety and health topics page.
I will have more to say at the end of my remarks about the value of these Alliances, but for now please accept my heartfelt thanks for the Steel Group's participation. I appreciate your eagerness to share with OSHA insights about your industry, as well as your efforts to share OSHA information with others in the iron and steel industry.
I know that you are curious about what will be OSHA's priorities for the next year. OSHA's Fall Regulatory Agenda is going through final review and we expect it to be published soon - most likely in just a few weeks. Until the agenda is published, I cannot say a lot about the content, but I can tell you this... The new agenda will reflect the completion of one project of interest to you: On August 24 we published the final rule to amend OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard include assigned protection factors.
HEXAVALENT CHROMIUM GUIDANCE
As everyone here is well aware, on February 28,  OSHA published a final standard for occupational exposure to hexavalent chromium in general industry, construction and shipyards.
OSHA determined that the new standard was necessary to reduce significant health risks to employees, such as lung cancer and damage to the skin and nasal passages. More than 500,000 employees are covered by the provisions of the new standard, including nearly 40,000 employees in steel mills. The compliance date for most of the provisions of the standard is coming up - Nov. 27 for employers with 20 or more employees.
To help small businesses comply with the new standards, while also helping them reduce the risk to employees potentially exposed to these compounds, OSHA has posted a safety and health guidance on our website - www.osha.gov. I hope you will visit the site to view this document along with all the other tools OSHA has made available to your industry.
GLOBALLY HARMONIZED SYSTEM
OSHA has been working with an international committee to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals for workplace hazards. GHS is a comprehensive worldwide system for defining chemical hazards, creating processes to classify chemicals, and using uniform labels and safety data sheets to communicate hazard information.
The system will help bring more consistency and clarity to hazardous chemical regulations in the workplace. Employers and employees who use chemicals are often confused by the diverse and sometimes conflicting national and international requirements.
One of the many benefits of adopting GHS is that it would provide a consistent format for labels and safety data sheets, making the information easier to understand and access when making hazard assessments or using labels and safety data sheets.
The adoption of GHS would also facilitate international trade by giving employers and employees consistent information about chemicals during their production, transportation, use and disposal. With the support of manufacturers and organizations around the world, the United States is moving forward with a goal of international adoption of the GHS by 2008.
To help you understand the requirements proposed by the GHS, OSHA has posted a guidance document on our website.
On September 12, 2006, OSHA published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and seeking public comment on implementing the GHS. You have until November 13  to file, and I hope you will send in comments to express your support or concerns.
NATIONAL CONSENSUS STANDARDS
Another OSHA project that I know is on your mind is our efforts to review all the Agency's consensus standard references as well as standards based on consensus standards. The review is intended to update the federal regulations and revise, eliminate, or otherwise address outdated consensus standards that were adopted under Section 6(a) of the OSH Act more than 30 years ago.
A general notice explaining the process was published in the Federal Register on November 24, 2004. Almost a year later, on September 13, 2005, we published the first final rule, which revoked five out-of-date standards.
We are in the process of finalizing a proposed rule dealing with OSHA Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards that refers to consensus standards which specify design criteria for PPE. Under the proposal, employers would not need to be familiar with these design criteria, but simply would need to ensure that PPE conforms to current consensus standards related to design and construction of PPE.
OSHA believes the proposed rule, which we expect to issue in the next few months, will eliminate the difficulties created for employers by having our PPE standards refer to outdated consensus standards.
OSHA is also working on updating a number of other standards, including those dealing with welding definitions, acetylene, and abrasive wheel equipment so that these standards reflect current consensus standards.
We are seeing progress on this complex and long-overdue project, and I intend to continue to push this along and to bring OSHA's standards up to date. My goal is to see that OSHA's standards are as relevant and effective as possible, fulfilling our mission to help protect the safety and health of our working men and women.
OSHA AT 35
This has been a significant year for OSHA. It was 35 years ago that President Nixon and Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, at a time in the United States when the government recognized a need to take a firm leadership role to protect the working men and women in our country.
This 35th anniversary year has been a time of reflection and renewal at OSHA as we take stock of what we have learned and accomplished as a government agency charged with a solemn responsibility. It is also a year when we look forward to what we need to do to continue OSHA's life-saving mission on behalf of our citizens.
Before 1971, no uniform or comprehensive provisions existed in the United States to protect employees against workplace hazards. At the time, job-related injuries accounted for more than 14,000 employee deaths a year. Although the U.S. workforce has more than doubled since 1971, last year the number of workplace fatalities was 5,700.
So, while progress has been made and we are going in the right direction, there is more to be done. On this point, we can all agree: Even one workplace fatality is one too many.
IRON AND STEEL'S SAFETY RECORD
I am happy to tell you that, according to records in OSHA's Directorate for Enforcement, the steel industry over the last 10 years has made significant progress in improving its Total Recordable Case Rate. As you know, your case rate is a measure of injuries and illnesses reported by your industry.
The reduction in workplace incidents over the past decade is reassuring, and I am hoping today to show you how your businesses can continue to improve your safety and health record.
When trying to improve workplace safety and health, logic suggests that we focus on eliminating the most frequent problems. The workplace safety and health hazards that we find most frequently in the metal industries are:
burns and eye injuriesThe challenge is to minimize these hazards. The effective solution is to follow the right safety and health standards. I also realize that this is "easier said than done."
struck-by and crushing hazards
strains and sprains
Each year in October OSHA issues its list of the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards - that is, the standards that are most frequently cited as violated during inspections and investigations. This is a good place to start when looking for ways to improve your workplace safety and health record.
This year, the top three most frequently violated safety and heath standards for all industries involve scaffolding, hazard communication, and fall protection.
Of course, the list of top violations changes with different industries. A recurring problem in construction may not show up at all in nursing homes, for example.
For the metals industry, the most frequently violated standards relate to:
- overhead and gantry cranes
- electrical hazards, including wiring methods, components and equipment
- lockout/tagout and control of hazardous energy
- general requirements for safe machine operation
- emissions from coke ovens
These are all admirable strategies and they appear to have made a positive difference in balance sheets. Today I want to ask you to keep in mind one more cost-saving measure that is guaranteed to improve your bottom line. I am speaking, of course, about how to use "the power of prevention" to reduce the tremendous costs associated with workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
I think you know that I was trained in labor law, not occupational safety. Yet the concept of "accident prevention" was instilled in me early and reaffirmed when I joined the Jackson Lewis law firm in South Carolina. The firm was founded on this concept of prevention, and it has been a strong part of my philosophy.
All my experience has taught me that the best and least expensive way for a business or organization to reduce workplace injuries and illness is through prevention. But this is not just my opinion.
It is a proven fact that when employees operate under a comprehensive safety and health management system, incidents of injury and illness go down, insurance costs go down, and workers' compensation payments go down. At the same time, employee morale goes up, productivity goes up, competitiveness goes up, and profits go up.
In a time when companies are making difficult decisions about profits, losses, and keeping jobs here in America, choosing to improve safety and health programs just makes good business sense.
In fact, I am here to say that you cannot have a great business without a great safety and health program in place. It is as simple as that!
OSHA: THE RESOURCE
In May, in a speech to members of the Metals Service Center Institute Florida, [President and CEO] Robert Weidner talked about how his association wants "to provide the tools that can help you run your businesses better and be more profitable." He said the association leaders "want their membership in MSCI to stand for doing business the right way."? Well, so does OSHA!
Part of "doing business the right way" means following established safety and health standards. This is part of the legal responsibility of all business owners to protect their employees from injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
OSHA can help you meet that responsibility. Believe me: OSHA would prefer to help a business prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities, rather than answer a single call about a workplace tragedy or write a single condolence letter.
When we find employers who fail to uphold their employee safety and health responsibilities, however, we deal with them strongly. Through our Site-Specific Targeting and Enhanced Enforcement programs, we send a clear message that OSHA takes its mission seriously.
On the other hand, OSHA recognizes that the vast majority of business owners want to protect their employees; many times, they just need help with the process. That is why OSHA has developed a full range of tools and services to help employers and employees succeed while staying safe on the job.
I am going to ask your help with this point. As you all know, on our website, www.osha.gov, OSHA offers free fact sheets, free guidance documents, free pocket guides, posters, and hundreds of other pages of information to show businesses how to keep everyone safe and healthy on the job.
Please, remind your friends in the industry that these free resources are there to assist them. -- And please tell your customers that they should not be afraid to visit our website or phone OSHA. OSHA never targets people for an inspection because they call the Agency for advice or visit our website. We want people to make OSHA their number-one resource for safety and health information.
Just this month OSHA introduced a new safety and health topics information page that demonstrates how investment in workplace safety and health makes good business sense. This web page, "Making the Business Case for Safety and Health" is a product of several alliances with OSHA, including the American Industrial Hygiene Association, American Society of Safety Engineers, and the National Federation of Independent Business. The page highlights information on how a comprehensive safety and health program can help employers save money while protecting their employees.
Finally, I want individual employers to consider participating in one of OSHA's many cooperative programs. These provide tailor-made opportunities for businesses of any size to work with OSHA and other experienced employers in your field to address your workplace safety and health issues.
Businesses that ask OSHA for help can look forward to cooperative assistance with mutually beneficial outcomes. We see proof of these benefits in the superior performance of companies and organizations operating under OSHA's Strategic Partnerships, Voluntary Protection Programs, and our Alliances - such as our Alliance with The Steel Group that I mentioned a few minutes ago.
OSHA's data and 35 years of experience show that companies that implement comprehensive, effective safety and health management systems can expect to see their injury and illness rates reduced by 20 percent or more, with increased insurance savings that can be better invested into a business' future.
In fact, worksites that operate under our Voluntary Protection Programs and implement a comprehensive safety and health management system find their injury rates are generally half their industry average. Translated into dollars, we estimate that companies participating in OSHA's VPP program have saved since 1982 more than $1 billion.
Let me add a note about workers' comp that not everyone realizes: Workers' compensation premiums are based on industries, not individual businesses. This means that when you have a bad player in your industry - a business owner who ignores safety and health standards and puts employees at risk - that employer drives up the cost of insurance premiums for everyone in your industry. However, by working through OSHA's cooperative programs, such as our Alliances, we work together to educate everyone in an industry on how to bring down their injury and illness rates, which will lead to a reduction in everyone's insurance premiums.
Think of this: I we could bring down everyone's injury and illness record and their workers' comp rate by half, can you imagine what employers could do with the savings?
This is what I mean when I say that "OSHA adds value... to business, work and life."
Since its creation 35 years ago, OSHA has seen work-related fatalities reduced 60 percent and injuries and workplace illnesses drop 40 percent. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that for the third year in a row we have seen declines in workplace injuries and illnesses.
This is indeed cause to celebrate, but we all know that the job is not finished. OSHA needs to see everyone on the job, thinking and practicing "safety and health" every day.
Through our on-line resources, our training opportunities, our on-site consultation service, and through mutually beneficial Alliances, Strategic Partnerships and other cooperative programs, OSHA and businesses are working together to make sure that no one has to die to earn a living.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|