Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||11/03/2006|
| Presented To:||DOW Chemical Company VPP Corporate Pilot Recognition Ceremony|
| Speaker:||Edwin G. Foulke Jr.|
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY
VPP Corporate Pilot Recognition Ceremony
Friday, November 3, 2006
Thank-you for that kind introduction and warm welcome. I especially want to thank everyone at Dow Chemical for your many years of participation in OSHA programs and your longtime commitment to safety and health. It is a genuine pleasure to be here today to congratulate you on your latest and greatest achievement.
When President Bush appointed me to lead OSHA, I made a resolution to myself - I resolved to touch the hearts of business owners around the country. I resolved to talk to as many people as I could about the importance of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. I am keeping that resolution, and that is why I am here today.
Dow Chemical made a resolution of its own in 1996 when it set a very challenging corporate-wide goal to reduce employee injuries by 90 percent. Ten years later, in 2005, Dave Kepler [Dow Senior VP] announced that Dow had achieved an 84 percent reduction - which translates to nearly 13,000 people not getting hurt.
That is 13,000 employees contributing to Dow's productivity.
13,000 people helping to keep Dow competitive.
13,000 people alive and healthy and contributing to their communities.
13,000 people coming home to their loved ones every day.
Dow credits this achievement to a resolution that it made a decade ago. Its corporate leaders resolved to protect its employees and become a national model. They have kept that resolution, which is why I am here recognize your tremendous achievement.
VPP CORPORATE PILOT SUCCESS
OSHA welcomes Dow Chemical into our family of visionary corporations - along with General Electric, Georgia-Pacific, International Paper, Washington Group International, and the United States Postal Service. These are the Corporate Participants in OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs' Corporate Pilot Program.
The VPP Corporate Pilot Program streamlines the application and onsite evaluation processes for organizations that have made a commitment to OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs - "VPP."
Not just anyone gets to be a member of this elite group. Participants in our Corporate Pilot Program must have in place a corporate-level safety and health management system. Their system must be operating effectively throughout the organization. There must be internal processes in place to continually evaluate the safety and health performance of their facilities.
The VPP Corporate Pilot Program is built on the proven success of OSHA's VPP initiative, which emphasizes the effectiveness of complete safety and health management systems. Our data suggests that companies that implement such a system can expect to see their injury and illness rates reduced by 20 percent or more. In fact, VPP generally find their injury rates are half their industry average.
For corporations that demonstrate a strong commitment to employee safety and health, OSHA has a special place for them - the VPP Corporate Pilot Program. These companies have adopted VPP on a large scale. This program offers a streamlined process for both OSHA and corporations to evaluate their worksites and award them VPP status.
Today Dow has 9 active VPP worksites across the nation, and I am pleased to hear that your Seadrift facility in Texas has a VPP evaluation scheduled for later this month. I hope and expect Seadrift to be the first of many Dow facilities to use the Corporate Pilot procedures.
As more corporations make commitments to VPP, this Pilot Program will play a major role in expanding the program and helping more corporations protect their employees and stay competitive.
THE VPP SPIRIT
If someone had told you ahead of time there is a special, powerful passion and spirit that is common at all VPP sites, I wonder if you would have believed it. I think this is something you needed to discover for yourselves. This passion comes from the process of each worksite earning its VPP Star. I have seen and heard that passion myself in every VPP site I visit. I feel that passion here today because clearly everyone here is working together, looking out for each other, and focusing on being safe and productive.
This is OSHA's mission: Ensuring the safety and health of every working man and woman in America, and I am grateful to everyone here today who has worked toward this goal. When you improve your safety and health record, you join the OSHA family.
This is a significant year for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is celebrating its 35th anniversary. 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.
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 send 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.
SAVING THROUGH SAFETY
I want to call your attention to an article in the September issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. The article described the results of a new study, using employment, earnings and gross domestic product data, which analyzed the effect of a 38 percent decline in occupational injuries from 1993 to 2002.
The study concluded that this decade-long decline in workplace injuries saved the U.S. economy more than $31 billion.
The study also concluded that this decline in occupational injuries increased employment in 2002 alone by almost 550,000 jobs.
Other benefits of the reduced workplace injuries included
- A $54 billion increase in output;
- a nearly $17 billion rise in income;
- a $2.9 billion increase in federal revenue;
- a $1.7 billion rise in state and local revenue; and
- a rise of $25.5 billion in the GDP.
Of course the value of fewer illnesses, injuries and fatalities to employees and their families is priceless!
At a time when companies in the United States are making difficult decisions about profits, losses, and keeping jobs here in America, choosing to improve safety and health programs is not just their legal and, I personally believe, their moral responsibility; it also makes good business sense.
Today America is the most productive nation in the world. In our efforts to remain competitive with other nations with lower employment costs, we have used "just in time" production and "quality circles" - which are all good - to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of our worksites. There are not a lot of places left to save money. One of the last places to find savings is by lowering the cost of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.
So, the evidence is clear: 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.
This is a simple and logical equation. Mathematically and economically, this equation shows that businesses can prosper when they invest in employee safety.
Let me explain something about workers' compensation costs that not everyone realizes: Workers' compensation premiums are based on industries, not individual businesses. This means that a bad player in an industry - a business owner who ignores safety and health standards and puts employees at risk - drives up the cost of insurance premiums for everyone in the industry.
However, by working through OSHA's cooperative programs, we work together to educate everyone in an industry about how to bring down their injury and illness rates, which will lead to a reduction in everyone's insurance premiums.
SAVING JOBS, STAYING COMPETITIVE
For example, translated into dollars, we estimate that companies participating in OSHA's VPP program have saved, since 1982, more than $1 billion.
Those who choose VPP can look forward to the best savings and success of all.
This is not only my opinion. People all over our nation are talking about what VPP does for them:
In June, at the Region I conference for the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association, the governor of Vermont, James Douglas, said programs like VPP are helping to keep jobs in his state.
In Texas City, Texas, officials have recognized the value of VPP. In June of this year, the city commissioners announced a 20 percent tax abatement to every industrial entity that achieves and maintains VPP. Texas City's mayor, Matthew Doyle, said this tax benefit is "a small price to pay for a safer community." Needless to say, we at OSHA agree.
Today OSHA has more than 1,600 VPP sites, and we are eager to see this program grow. With your help, it will.
OSHA AND DOW: WORKING TOGETHER
Clearly, here at Dow, you have demonstrated that you have what it takes to achieve superior results, and that is why I am here to salute your success and to thank you for working with OSHA so long and so well.
OSHA and Dow began an Alliance in 2003, and we have renewed it twice - most recently in May of this year.
Our Alliance focuses on using our collective expertise to enhance a "culture of prevention" through the corporation.
Our Alliance led to the development of a workshop on Dow's approach to OSHA's Process Safety Management Standard, and this workshop has been presented to OSHA staff in three parts of the country to help them understand how Dow successfully implements the standard in its workplaces.
OSHA and Dow have worked together with other Alliance participants, such as the American Meat Institute, to develop workshops and e-tools for our webpages -all to help businesses solve specific safety and health issues in their workplaces.
Dow and OSHA have developed case studies to learn how to reduce the number and severity of employee injuries in motor vehicle crashes.
In so many ways, OSHA and Dow are learning from each other and also teaching other businesses how to stay productive while keeping employees safe and healthy.
There is one more contribution from Dow that I want to recognize:
Dow supports OSHA's Special Government Employee program, which is an extension of VPP. Through this program, active VPP participants can qualify to assist OSHA with reviews of current and prospective VPP sites.
Special Government Employees - SGE's - do a great service for American business by extending OSHA's reach and helping spread the word about the value of workplace safety and health and the "power of prevention."
To date, we have 2 active SGEs from Dow, who have participated in a number of evaluations of potential VPP sites. One of the SGE's also assisted screening a VPP Pilot site overseas, where Ireland is looking to implement a program similar to OSHA's.
I want to thank DOW for the participation of its Special Government Employees, and I want to encourage you today to consider increasing the number of SGEs you support. This is a wonderful opportunity for your employees to share Dow's successes/best practices with others. Very likely, they may also bring in good ideas from the sites they visit. In this way we all learn and we all benefit.
With my request in mind and as we celebrate Dow's participation in our VPP Corporate Pilot, I commend you for your leadership and your vision; I applaud your willingness to work as a team with OSHA; and I thank you for all that you have done in cooperation with OSHA to prevent injuries and illnesses on the job.
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