Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents
• Information Date: 06/14/1999
• Presented To: American Society of Safety Engineers Professional Development Conference
• Speaker: Jeffress, Charles N.
• 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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

Charles N. Jeffress
American Society of Safety Engineers
Professional Development Conference
South Baltimore, Maryland
June 14, 1999

  • According to an old Hindu proverb, "there's nothing noble in being superior to another person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self."

  • That's what professional development is all about-honing your mind, improving your skills and increasing your value to your employer or your clients. Continual improvement is a concept that works for both corporations and individuals. If you want a "star-spangled future," you'll need to continue to develop new capabilities, increase your proficiency at current skills and master ever-changing technology.

  • Being a safety professional won't be sufficient by itself. You'll need additional expertise. That's likely to include cross-training in industrial hygiene. As we move into the next millennium, the lines separating safety engineers and industrial hygienists will become more and more blurred. Employers will want an all-purpose safety and health professional. So, if you want to serve your clients well and advance professionally, you will be expanding your repertoire. Industrial hygienists will have to do the same thing on the other side.

  • Safety engineers will need to know how to sample for asbestos. Industrial hygienists will need to know about machine guarding. And everyone will be looking for ways to minimize the physical stresses and repetitive motions that can result in musculoskeletal disorders.

  • ASSE and AIHA have recognized the need to work together towards this future. I was particularly pleased to receive a copy last month of the joint letter from Fred Fleming and Jim Rock, presidents of the two associations. Your plans for cross-over communications, continuing education and networking opportunities will benefit everyone in the safety and health community.

  • Training is critical for OSHA employees as well. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman continually emphasizes the need for life-long learning for all U.S. workers. Last year, when I spoke with you, I expressed my strong support for professional certification for OSHA safety and health staff.

  • This spring, I reiterated OSHA's policy of providing employees with the opportunity to attend a professional development conference once every two years. I also strongly encouraged supervisors to see that their staff take advantage of training opportunities such as preparation classes for certification exams. I want our staff to be part of seminars and classes like those held at this conference. We're also considering adding new courses at the OSHA Training Institute that meet professional certification requirements. And we'll continue to renew the accreditation each year for the 48 courses we currently offer that meet requirements for safety and health professionals to maintain their certifications.

  • I'm proud of what we accomplish at the OSHA Training Institute. Last year more than 5,500 federal and state OSHA staff took one of our 78 courses at the institute. Through our 12 education centers, an additional 9,200 individuals-mostly from the private sector-received training in occupational safety and health. Additionally, more than 150,000 employers and employees took 10-hour or 30-hour OSHA general industry or construction safety courses from OSHA-authorized outreach trainers.

  • The Institute is also moving forward in planning for satellite telecourses and computer-based training. We'll test this approach, and then move into full-scale implementation in Fiscal Year 2001.

  • I believe we need to emphasize occupational safety and health education more in the private sector as well. To help employers and employees, we've expanded the education and training materials available on our website. Last month alone, nearly 160,000 visitors accessed our software advisors and nearly 14 million logged onto our site.

  • Many state OSHA's have long stressed teaching safety and health. Federal OSHA has never had full-time staff at the local level who are dedicated to teaching employers and employees about safety and health.

  • President Clinton has asked for an additional $12 million in OSHA's budget for 2000 to place full-time occupational safety and health training and technical assistance staff in every federal OSHA office. We can and should do more to provide practical information to employers and employees at the local level. We need to give them the tools and training they need to maintain safe and healthful workplaces.

  • I want OSHA to become as well known for our training and technical assistance as we are for our inspections. If this proposal is funded by Congress, we will have taken a big step toward that goal. And I appreciate ASSE's recent letter to Congress supporting appropriations for OSHA. As a regulatory agency, we welcome all the support we can get!

  • As we enter the next millennium, we need to be constantly aware of the need to grow, to change, to evolve-as individuals and as a profession. It's been said that the road to success is always under construction. So we must be prepared to patch potholes, to clear new ground, overcome obstacles and tackle tough terrain to get where we're going.

  • In particular, we need new strategies to deal with emerging hazards. In the 20th Century, we've moved from an agrarian economy to an industrial economy to a service-based, technology-driven, information-age economy. While we still have many of the old hazards from earlier eras, we also must address new problems. One of those new issues that we've all become aware of in the past decade is work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

  • Reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders is one of the most serious challenges safety and health professionals face as the Year 2000 approaches. More than 600,000 U.S. workers experienced these injuries in 1997-one-third of the lost work-time injuries. Workers' compensation costs alone amount to $15 to $20 billion each year for overexertion and repetitive motion injuries.

  • In that light, ASSE's recent letter affirming the sufficiency of the science, supporting the need for a federal standard on ergonomics and commending OSHA's efforts thus far is most encouraging. We know ergonomics programs are the right way to go-for both workers and their employers. But the noise from those who oppose, ipso facto, any government regulation sometimes drowns out the voices of reason. OSHA welcomes your recommendations and your continued involvement as a professional association as we move through the rulemaking process.

  • I also want to encourage your personal efforts, both as participants in the rulemaking and as safety professionals at your company or with your clients. Too often there's a disconnect between what safety and health professionals know and practice and what the trade association representing an industry is saying in Washington. The missing link in the chain is the company CEO.

  • People purporting to speak for American business in Washington keep repeating their mantras: there's no sound science behind ergonomics, no proof that ergonomics programs reduce injuries and no need to do anything until we know exactly how many repetitions produce injuries. Everyone here knows that none of these statements is true.

  • But does your CEO know that? It will take courageous and forthright CEO's, educated in the practical realities by safety and health professionals, to counter these baseless assertions.

  • We know enough to act now. We cannot delay another two years for a second National Academy of Sciences study. To wait is to stand by while 1.2 million more workers experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders and their employers pay another $30 to $40 billion. These human and financial costs are too great to ignore.

  • Furthermore, we know how to solve these problems. We know that ergonomic programs work. They reduce injuries. They improve employee morale. And they save money for employers. Good ergonomics is good economics.

  • Along with ASSE, other professional groups have encouraged OSHA to move forward on ergonomics. They include:

    • the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,
    • the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,
    • the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses,
    • the American Nurses Association,
    • the American Public Health Association,
    • the American Industrial Hygiene Association,
    • the AFL-CIO, and
    • numerous individual unions and individual employers.

I thank you for your support of ergonomics and urge you to participate in the hearings that will follow the publication of our proposal.

  • About the same time we publish our ergonomics proposal this fall, we will issue our final recordkeeping standard. It will take effect in January 2000.

  • I think you will be pleased with the changes. The new rule will offer clearer definitions of work-relatedness, a better explanation of what constitutes light duty and a much improved and simpler recordkeeping form. I hope your local chapters will consider hosting recordkeeping training sessions this fall to help employers learn about the new rule and get ready to use the new forms.

  • My top priority for standard-setting remains the safety and health program standard. In retrospect, this should have been the first standard the agency adopted when it opened its doors in 1971. Before I finish my term as the head of OSHA, I want an effective safety and health program to become a fundamental responsibility of every employer in the U.S.

  • In light of recent court decisions, we've decided to conduct some additional analyses to support the standard. We now expect to publish our proposal late this year. We look forward to receiving your comments and suggestions so that we can produce an effective, practical standard that makes sense for all employers.

  • Overall, one of my goals in standard setting is finding ways to improve the rulemaking process. We need to move standards from initial concern to Federal Register final much more rapidly. I've established a new pilot structure within the agency. We've set up ten cross-functional regulatory teams. Each team is concentrating on two or three standards.

  • We've included members from all the disciplines we draw on in drafting standards-safety specialists or health scientists, economists, risk assessment experts and attorneys-on each team. Further, each team will call on compliance officers, occupational health nurses or doctors and others as necessary to complete their work. That will cut down on multiple reviews. If this approach works, we'll make it permanent.

  • It's been a busy year on Capitol Hill. More anti-OSHA bills have been introduced in the past 12 months than in the past three years. It's consuming considerable agency resources to address this legislation.

  • One of the bills that we talked about last year was Senator Enzi's SAFE Act. This year's version is somewhat improved, but the Administration remains opposed to the bill. One of the issues on which OSHA and ASSE continue to have discussions is the appropriateness of using third party auditors in place of OSHA inspectors.

  • As I told you last year, I support this concept as long as it is not tied to exemption from penalties. The current bill is driven by an effort to provide an easy way to avoid OSHA penalties for those who can afford consultants. There's no accountability. The bill would not permit OSHA to propose penalties for a two-year period even if violations found at the worksite were willful or resulted in the death of a worker.

  • Substituting third party audits for OSHA enforcement is equivalent to giving H&R Block carte blanche to waive IRS audits and penalties for taxpayers for whom they prepare returns. I welcome more third party audits, but in the context of compliance assistance, not as a replacement for OSHA enforcement. I'm also open to some limits on OSHA's use of the audits. But I believe it is in the best interest of workers and their employers to permit continued OSHA access to them.

  • Despite our different views on the issue of third party audits, we are in agreement on many other safety and health issues. And we appreciate ASSE's thoughtful analysis of safety and health issues, encouraging letters, supportive testimony and ongoing participation in rulemaking.

  • We've talked about professional development and outreach to the regulated community. We've talked about rulemaking. As we strive for balance in balance in our approach to workplace safety and health, we also need to use partnership and enforcement tools.

  • We are continuing to explore opportunities to work cooperatively with employers to reduce injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Our premier partnership, the Voluntary Protection Program keeps paying big dividends. Today more than 500 workplaces, representing 180 industries save $110 million each year because their injury rates are 50 percent below the average for their industries.

  • In addition, we're trying vertical partnerships, like the one we have with ConAgra Refrigerated Foods-establishing effective safety and health programs in every plant they own. We also have industry-specific partnerships such as SESAC for steel erectors in Colorado and the Roofing Industry Partnership for contractors in Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin.

  • This spring we began a new approach to construction safety in Florida. Throughout the U.S., construction injuries have fallen, but fatalities have actually increased. More construction workers die on the job than workers in any other field. Only 6 percent of Americans work in construction, but 18 percent of American workers who lose their lives in the workplace die on construction sites.

  • The problem is particularly serious in Florida where fatalities have increased nearly 25 percent over the past three years. Half of work-related deaths in Florida in 1998 occurred in construction. In an effort to stem this tide, OSHA offices in Florida have joined together to introduce C.A.R.E.

  • C.A.R.E. stands for Construction Accident Reduction Emphasis. The goal of this program is to "reduce construction accidents and fatalities in Florida by focusing resources on enforcement, partnership and outreach."

  • We've pulled together a number of resources for C.A.R.E. The Florida Consultation Program is offering six 10-hour construction safety courses-one each month over six months. OSHA is distributing a computer disk with a model safety and health program and specifics for special areas such as hazard communication, lockout/tagout and trenching. Other organizations are serving as mentors and models.

  • We're also involving OSHA compliance officers who will concentrate on the four leading causes of death on construction sites: falls, electrical shock, being struck by machines or materials, and being crushed, such as a trenching collapse or being pinned under a vehicle that has overturned. Our inspections will zero in on specific construction trades where the most fatalities occur. These include highway construction, roofing, steel erection and electrical and mechanical trades. We believe the C.A.R.E. partnership, which combines outreach, training and enforcement, offers a good model for future cooperative efforts.

  • Nationwide, we have a new program in place for enforcement. We would prefer to have combined partnership and enforcement through the Cooperative Compliance Program, but the court ruled against CCP this spring. We do, however, know which individual workplaces need help, thanks to our data initiative. Last year, under our Interim Targeting Program, we doubled the number of significant cases resulting from programmed inspections.

  • This spring, I wrote to 12,500 employers advising them that their lost workday injury and illness rates for 1997 were more than double the private sector average. I encouraged these companies to get help from their workers' comp carriers, private consultants or OSHA consultants. We will inspect about 2,200 sites from this pool by the end of 1999 under our new Site Specific Targeting Program. We will continue local emphasis programs as well.

  • Just as you're seeking to improve your knowledge and credentials as safety professionals, we're seeking to refine and enhance our approach to workplace safety and health. We're encouraged by our progress over the past 28 years. Workplace fatalities have been cut in half. Occupational injury and illness rates dropped in 1997 to the lowest level on record. That's good news.

  • But as the English military leader Oliver Cromwell once said, "He who stops being better, stops being good." So OSHA wants to keep getting better. We want to promulgate sensible regulations more promptly. We want to develop additional training and outreach programs and materials to help employers do the right thing. We want to find ways to partner with employers, employees and professional organizations committed to protecting workers. And we want to keep refining our enforcement program to zero in on employers who most need our help finding and fixing hazards.

  • We welcome your support. We appreciate your help. And we look forward to working with you over the years to achieve our mutual goal of protecting workers on the job.

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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