Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 11/02/1995
• Presented To: National Safety Congress
• Speaker: Dear, Joseph A.
• Status: Archived

Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Thank you, John, for that kind introduction.

One of the aspects I like most about my job is having the opportunity to talk to people who put a high priority on workplace health and safety. Your attendance here this week emphasizes that commitment, but just as importantly in this era of reduced budgets, it emphasizes your organization's commitment to this important issue. The one thing that we must continue to do -- in the federal government -- and throughout the American work place -- is give a high priority to health and safety.

Many of you may be aware that reinventing worker safety and health is a top initiative for President Clinton. He and Vice President Gore joined workers and management at a Washington D.C. manufacturer on May 16th to unveil a program called the "new OSHA."

We're changing in the private sector with reinvention and partnership --- we can use the same concepts in the Federal sector.

I'm concerned that there has been an accelerated increase in the Federal sector injury and illness rates and workers' compensation costs. There have been increases in both the total case rates and the lost time case rates in Fiscal Year 93 and again in FY 94. The total case rate increased from 5.1 in FY 92 to 5.7 in FY 94 -- an increase of 12 percent. The lost time case rate -- representing the most serious cases -- increased from 2.4 in FY 92 to 3.1 in FY 94 --- an increase of nearly 30 percent. The last time we had a rate this high was in FY 82. Within the last Fiscal Year alone, it has increased 15 percent. Workers' compensation costs have almost doubled in the last decade to more than $1.83 billion in Chargeback Year 95.

These increases call for new and innovative methods to address these problems. I believe that reinvention could be the key to stopping or slowing down the rate of growth in the Federal safety and health programs.

President Clinton described three strategies for the "new OSHA":

1) an OSHA that gives employers a choice -- employees, employers and OSHA working together to increase gains in workplace safety and health; or submit to the risk of OSHA's traditional enforcement;

2) an OSHA that will use common sense in developing and enforcing regulations; we are working with our stakeholders to identify clear and sensible priorities and we are eliminating or fixing out-of-date and confusing standards;

3) and, we're changing the way we work on a day-to-day basis by focusing on the most serious hazards and the most dangerous workplaces and by insisting on results instead of red tape. This definition of the new OSHA is driving OSHA's performance goals overall, including those for Federal Agencies.

My goal in 1995 was to inspect all those Federal agencies with twice the National average of lost time case rate. I am pleased to say that we met that goal and we will continue to focus on the most dangerous workplaces in the Federal sector.

Soon, there will be an opportunity for Federal agencies to chose how they will be regulated by OSHA. I have asked the Office of Federal Agency Programs to develop this idea.

For workplaces with strong and effective safety and health programs, OSHA will offer partnership. Those who choose to work with their employees and with OSHA in reducing injuries and illnesses will find OSHA a willing partner.

We have plans for a partnership between Federal agencies and the Department of Labor. This partnership will include OSHA assistance targeted to Federal agencies with the highest workers compensation rates. Under the partnership, if there is a strong safety and health program in effect, OSHA inspectors will focus only on those top five or so most serious hazards at facilities targeted for inspection.

Another facet of the partnership will be the opportunity for federal (your) safety and health personnel to investigate certain complaints that are normally responded to by OSHA with an inspection. If local worker representatives concur, OSHA will leverage its resources by utilizing the agency complaint investigation findings in lieu of an OSHA inspection.

For those Federal workplaces that are exceptional in eliminating hazards and reducing injuries and illnesses, OSHA will provide special recognition including priority for OSHA assistance.

For those that do not implement strong and effective safety and health programs: traditional OSHA enforcement. Those that do not step up their efforts to implement effective safety and health programs will continue to face strong and traditional OSHA enforcement procedures.

OSHA will continue to encourage safety and health programs on a continuing basis in Federal agencies. We have prepared a letter and a survey document which will go to the Federal agency heads asking them to assess the state of their safety and health programs. This will provide a serious assessment of the state of each agency's safety and health program for the National Performance Review Board (NPRB). We think this step is necessary to encourage Federal managers to make a commitment to implement an effective safety and health program -- a commitment necessary to curb the increase in injuries and illnesses and the accompanying workers' compensation costs.

An important part of an effective safety and health program is worker participation. As we develop the partnership idea, we encourage Federal agency partnership with Federal workers in the effort to implement an effective safety and health program -- we've seen the success of this concept in the private sector, and are confident it will be equally successful in the Federal sector

Safety and health committees are one effective way to elicit worker participation. We're fortunate that representatives from some of the best Federal safety and health committees will present a workshop on this subject from 2:45 to 4 this afternoon in the Houston Room. They'll be able to tell you what works and what doesn't work in setting up an effective agency-wide safety and health committee.

Some of you may have read an article in this month's edition of Government Executive Magazine that details one of OSHA's reinvention success stories. The article, Regulators to Consultants, does a fine job of detailing a program which began in our Maine office. This OSHA office was tops in the agency for issuing citations. But the area director and his team saw a problem. In spite of all the fines and violations cited, they were haunted by the fact that Maine's worker injury rate was the worst in the nation. The staff took a different approach. They identified employers with the largest number of workers' compensation claims and gave them a choice -- a regular compliance inspection or creation of an effective safety and health program -- one that has management commitment, worker participation, and that succeeds in finding and fixing real on-the-job hazards.

Ninety eight percent of the employers chose to join in a partnership. They received assistance in developing their programs and were given the lowest priority for inspection.

Their performance is monitored through regular reporting and random inspections. Those employers that chose not to enter into a partnership with OSHA were given a traditional enforcement inspection.

OSHA evaluation shows that employers in the program have identified over 95,000 instances of hazards and have already eliminated 55,000 of them. As you can see on this slide, in two years, those participating employers self-identified 14 times more hazards than OSHA could have found using our traditional strategy of physical workplace inspection (in part, because OSHA's small staff could never have visited all the worksites involved). Additionally, since joining the program, 6 out of 10 of the employers have already experienced a decrease in their lost-time injury rate.

This successful concept -- using worksite specific data for safety and health programs that get real results -- has been expanded into New Hampshire and Wisconsin and will be implemented around the country and throughout the Federal government.

The Maine 200 project demonstrates that OSHA can leverage limited resources to achieve worker protection by shifting responsibility back to the employers and employees at the worksite.

The Vice President thinks this project is one of the best reinvention success stories in the Federal sector and talks about it as he speaks on television and to audiences around the country. He presented the Maine 200 project a Hammer Award recognizing its importance to the Reinventing Government initiative. Two weeks ago, the Maine 200 program received the highly prestigious "Innovations in American Government Award". This award, presented by the Ford Foundation/Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, honors exemplary initiatives that provide creative solutions to pressing social and economic problems.

Effective safety and health programs do work --- we don't have good "before and after" anecdotes for the Federal sector --- since Federal agencies have been required to implement effective safety and health programs since 1980, but here is one from Boise Cascade. OSHA cited the company after an inspection in 1989 and proposed $1.5 million in fines. At settlement, the company paid $750,000 and established a safety and health program. After implementing their safety and health program, serious injuries and illnesses dropped 98 percent and annual workers' compensation costs dropped 85 percent. This is an excellent example of the effectiveness of a good safety and health program.

OSHA is also taking a focused inspection approach in the construction area -- telling employers if you have a good safety and health program -- and OSHA conducts a compliance inspection -- the inspection will concentrate on the four leading killers of construction workers -- falls, electrocutions, trenches, or being struck by objects and material handling. If we don't see problems in that area, we'll move on.

On the other hand, where a safety and health program has not been established or is ineffective, OSHA conducts a complete site inspection, with full citations.

Focused inspections allow OSHA to concentrate on the real dangers in this industry, while encouraging employers to establish comprehensive programs at their worksites. They allow OSHA to reach more construction worksites.

This is another successful concept we want to expand throughout industry and government.

But managers must be forewarned -- there will be serious consequences for serious violators. In workplaces where OSHA still finds willful, serious, and repeat violations, employers will continue to be penalized. In short, for those bad actors who have a history of endangering their employees and are unwilling to change, OSHA will rigorously enforce the law without compromise to assure that there are serious consequences for serious violators. As you can see from this chart, OSHA continued to have major enforcement actions in FY 95.

Recent Federal agency major enforcement actions include the South Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, Colorado where 14 firefighters from the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service lost their lives; a fatality inspection at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam in Lehighton, Pennsylvania where two college summer hires lost their lives after being overcome by carbon monoxide from pumps while cleaning out a pump room where no confined space procedures were in place; and an inspection at Fort Campbell, Kentucky Army Base where OSHA took severe enforcement action due to a number of long-standing serious electrical hazards.

The public wants common sense regulation -- business want common sense regulation -- we all want common sense regulation. The second part of OSHA's reinvention strategy is developing common sense regulation by negotiating, not dictating safety and health standards. For example, we are currently negotiating the steel erection standard in construction. The hearings on a proposal for a new respiratory protection standard featured a novel interactive panel discussion requested by respirator manufacturers. The panel gave us much important information toward achieving an improved final product.

We also reviewed all of our regulations and have reported to the President that we're taking steps to eliminate more than a thousand pages of regulations. There are some copies of our report to the President in the back of the room or you can call John Plummer's office after the conference.

OSHA's history of setting standards priorities has been haphazard. Priorities constantly shifted, it took many years to issue a regulation, and much of the regulated public was frustrated with both the process and the outcome. A new approach was essential if OSHA was to address the many serious unregulated hazards in the workplace. We have instituted a new five-point regulatory strategy to identify priority issues, focus on key building block rules, eliminate or fix confusing and out-of-date regulations, emphasize plain language and use cooperative partnerships.

Several examples of reductions include elimination of duplicative explosive rules, reduction of unnecessary reports for 14 carcinogens, elimination of a requirement for an obsolete test for coke oven workers and the reduction of 10 pages of general industry ladder standards.

Under our Priority Planning Process, a committee composed of OSHA employees, the Department of Labor, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration actively solicited input from stakeholders and the public. More than 100 stakeholders submitted written comments to the committee and nearly 200 representatives of labor, industry, professional and academic organizations, State plans, voluntary standards organizations, and the public participated.

We'll soon announce the results of the Priority Planning Process which will identify the most pressing workplace safety and health hazards in need of either regulatory or nonregulatory action. Identifying priorities will ensure that the leading causes of death, injury and illness in the workplace are addressed first.

A group of approximately 20 issues, affecting millions of working men and women, were designed as priorities. Of these, a small number have been chosen for rulemaking and will be added to the regulatory calendar as other standards are completed.

We'll also work with industry, labor, the States, and the safety and health community to find non-regulatory ways, such as information, education, and voluntary compliance, to address the remaining hazards. This is a more rational process for addressing the most pressing safety and health needs of this nation.

And we're focusing on results, not red tape. Admittedly this involves significantly changing OSHA's culture. In the past, we have looked at activities. How many inspections did we do? How many violations did we find per inspection? How many penalty dollars did we collect? It has never been OSHA's practice to look at the ultimate measures of what we're here to do -- to reduce injury, illness, and death -- until now.

At the heart of this change in OSHA's culture is a new performance measurement system, a new personnel evaluation system, a new way of working on OSHA's front line. We're taking a page from the best managed businesses -- surveying our customers to find out about what they expect and how well we serve them; involving our front line workers and reengineering our work processes.

OSHA has issued new inspection guidelines that call for compliance officers to not cite for lack of a MSDS for a common consumer product that is used as it would be in the home.

We are also injecting some simple common sense into enforcement. Citations for violations of paperwork requirements are declining. Two years ago (FY 93), we issued more than 3,400 citations for not putting up the required OSHA posters. It was the 24th most frequently cited OSHA violation. Today poster citations don't even show up on the list of frequently cited violations. Instead of handing the employer a citation, we hand out a poster.

OSHA's compliance officers no longer cite for minor paperwork requirements; they advise and educate the employer instead.

OSHA is reengineering the structure and operation of its field offices. One example of this reengineered process is the way OSHA responds to workers' complaints about hazardous conditions. Our goal is to get faster correction of problems -- a benefit for everyone involved. Using procedures as simple as phone calls and faxed copies of complaint forms have reduced the delays that normally resulted from mailing letters and complaint forms. Simple solutions -- but they work.

As government workers you may enjoy this story. Our Atlanta office recently received a complaint from an employee at Delta Airlines, and our compliance officer called the corporate headquarters and got a vice-president on the phone. He told him he was an OSHA inspector, that we had received a complaint, and the nature of the complaint, and asked "What's your side of the story?" The Delta vice-president started making frantic phone calls, and immediately pulled together a meeting of key personnel. Once they were all gathered, they spent an hour discussing the phone call--and whether or not it was a hoax! But then they went to the employee who had complained, they found out there was a problem and fixed it that afternoon!

These operations and structural changes in the field have been planned in partnership with the unions -- with union/management or "U-M" pairs.

We began by developing a model office and pilot testing it in seven area offices. The model redesign has four main components --- 1) problem-solving techniques and data analysis to identify and address the leading causes of death, injury and illness; 2) use of technologies such as computers and video cameras to streamline work processes; 3) organizing staff into specialized response teams that will respond to requests for agency services, and strategic intervention teams that will target agency initiatives and problem solving strategies; and 4) evaluating performance on the basis of data and actual results achieved, not just the number of agency activities.

The phone and fax pilot has had impressive results everywhere it's been tested. It used to take almost fifty days for the Cleveland, Ohio office to achieve hazard abatement for complaint items. Now the time to abatement is 10 days. Peoria, Illinois has cut its abatement time from 35 days to 8. This more efficient approach to handling nonformal complaints is now in use by all OSHA area offices.

In the past, OSHA has used inspections, citations and penalties as performance measures. The new OSHA's performance will now be measured by results --- by the impact we are having on reduction of injuries, illnesses and fatalities and correction of dangerous conditions through better targeting and focused inspections and the implementation of effective worksite safety and health programs.

As Federal safety and health professionals, you are an extension of the OSHA family. We in the Federal sector have been re-invention leaders for a number of years -- our OSHA Federal agency inspections are targeted based on actual workers' compensation data, and we have been implementing safety and health programs since 1980.

The newest aspect that the new OSHA offers Federal agencies is partnership. In response to the increases in workers' compensation costs and injury/illness rates and the changes in the workplace due to reinvention and restructuring, the Office of Federal Agency Programs (OFAP) is working on a draft partnership pledge to offer other Federal agencies the opportunity to work with OSHA as a partner. The pledge promotes partnership, leverages resources, encourages safety and health programs, and works toward reducing injury/illness rates and workers' compensation rates.

A stakeholders meeting was held on June 27 in Washington, D.C. with the top safety and health professionals and union representatives from the largest Federal agencies including the Department of Defense, the U.S. Postal Service, and the Veterans Administration. The two principal objectives of the conference were to reach consensus on the core functions that must be maintained to provide a safe and healthful workplace for Federal employees and determine strategies to ensure functions are implemented. The meeting has led to a proposal for formalizing this partnership between OSHA and Federal agency heads and agency union officials.

This proposal is being finalized and will be forwarded to the Secretary of Labor. I think there is a good chance for us to get some kind of formal partnership pledge, but whatever happens it is clear that the new OSHA is vocal about the importance of its partners.

We'll rely more on you as agency safety and health professionals and we'll recognize the value of your efforts. You are partners to OSHA's compliance staff. This means that your job is more important than ever before.

In Labor Day remarks, Secretary Reich said, "the economy has caught fire. But the gains to most workers have gone up in smoke." He pointed out that the median worker in this country -- the person who'd be smack in the middle if we lined up Americans by their earnings -- was receiving four dollars less in every weekly paycheck. "On Labor Day 1995," he said, "the earnings of most American workers are either stuck in the mud or sinking. Millions of white-collar supervisors and mid-level managers are joining blue-collar production workers in a common category -- frayed collar workers -- frayed collar workers in gold plated times."

Budget cuts and other Congressional proposals threaten the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and other Federal agencies. Looking at the comments from the June 27th stakeholders' meeting, you feel there is a disproportunate cut in Federal agency safety and health programs.

Secretary Reich has rightly termed these budget cuts not a legitimate attempt to balance the budget, but a "war on American workers."

Our goal at OSHA -- and I hope it will be your goal also -- is to instill management commitment to health and safety in the workplace; to engage the energy, talent and imagination of workers in that pursuit; and to arrive at that moment when it can be said that every working man and woman in the Nation went to work today and came home to their families in the same condition that they left.

I salute your commitment to workplace health and safety. Have a great conference. And now I'll be glad to take any questions you might have.
Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents

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