Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||08/27/2001|
| Presented To:||VPPPA|
| Speaker:||John L. Henshaw|
John L. Henshaw
VPPPA 17th Annual Conference
New Orleans, La.
August 27, 2001
Thank you, Lee Anne. I'm delighted to join Secretary Chao, Jack Hurst and all of you for the opening of The 17th annual conference for the VPP Participants Association.
I'm especially pleased to be here as the first OSHA Assistant Secretary who's come from a VPP company. Monsanto and Solutia are strong VPP companies. They saw the value and realized the value of VPP. I'm grateful that I learned about the program through an early VPP supporter Paul Villane of Solutia formerly Monsanto.
Paul was first interested in VPP in 1985 when he attended the National Safety Congress, which was held right here in New Orleans. He returned to Monsanto and sold the idea to his plant manager in Pensacola, Florida. That plant became the first Monsanto site to join VPP.
We worked together when Monsanto spun off its chemical plants to create Solutia. We set a goal for all the Solutia plants worldwide to become and maintain VPP or our corporate equivalent.
Paul was the first OSHA Special Government Employee to serve on a VPP onsite review team. He remains committed to the program and he says even when he retires this December, he'll still find ways to work with and promote VPP! I hope to take him up on that offer.
The experience I gained while working with Paul and many others at Monsanto, Solutia and Astaris LLC has been invaluable in preparing me to join OSHA. Let me say - I am very excited being a part of this agency - there is no greater honor, no greater responsibility and no greater opportunity than to head the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and positively impact the safety and health of so many American workers.
I have been in this business -- the safety and health business -- for over 26 years and know the value of safety and health. I like many of you; have dedicated my life to selling the value of safety and health and injury and illness prevention.
My principal goal, in my tenure as Assistant Secretary is to promote the value of safety and health and the value of OSHA and its mission. To be successful OSHA must "sell" if you will, the value of what we do, to our customers and continuously improve our deliver of that value to all stakeholders.
You are the first to hear me say: OSHA of the 21st Century will be a "value add" agency.
OSHA will become more outwardly focused, more engaged with its customers and more focused on meeting their needs in the pursuit of improving job safety and health.
As I mentioned in my confirmation hearing on August 3, -- for OSHA to be successful and reduce injuries and illnesses we must use all the tools in its tool bag. The enforcement hammer must always be in our bag and used where necessary. But like a good craftsman, we must know how to use all our tools that drive safety and health and to pick the right tool for the job.
I have four priorities in mind for OSHA. These were laid out generally in my confirmation hearing testimony. But I want to share them in somewhat more detail with you.
Number One. I want to see an OSHA that is a leader in the national dialogue on safety and health. The OSH Act is a model for the rest of the world. And the U.S. has the safest workforce in the world. But, too often, here at home, OSHA is perceived on the sidelines -- enforcing the standards, issuing citations, but not leading the national discussion. I intend to change that.
I would like to see OSHA move from the sidelines to the frontlines and lead the nation in lock step with key stakeholders like VPP-PA, labor, trade and professional organizations. We have the expertise to do it. But we need to align ourselves and maximize our resources to accomplish it. This will require a lot of discussion, planning and hard work. By working together with our stakeholders, we can impact a result that is greater than the sum of our individual efforts. We --- We can do it.
Number Two. I believe in strong, effective and fair enforcement. To accomplish that, we must make certain our inspectors have the skills, training and expertise they need to do the job. That does not mean just interpreting the standards and issuing citations. That means emerging as experts with the credibility and authority needed to make a difference in the workplace. It means adding value. Enforcement is the very underpinning of our work -- it will not be diminished.
Several weeks ago, I spoke before NAM's Quarterly OSHA Policy Meeting in Washington. One of their members asked me how OSHA inspectors could be more their partners in eliminating hazards and improving safety and health in the workplace ... and less their adversaries. We must find an answer to this question and help eliminate hazards and add maximum value.
Number Three. OSHA must expand our outreach, education and compliance assistance efforts. I firmly believe this is the area where we will see the greatest opportunities in improving compliance and injury and illness reductions.
Soon you will see a major outreach effort on our new recordkeeping rule. We must do more of that -- we must improve on our outreach efforts, user-friendly education, guidance documents, and other tools that help all employers provide safe and healthful workplaces.
You will see in this administration a renewed emphasis on compliance assistance, in keeping with Secretary Chao's emphasis on the importance of prevention ... and in keeping with the language in the OSH Act -- which emphasizes encouraging employers, stimulating new programs and perfecting existing ones.
OSHA cannot do the job of education and compliance assistance alone. We need to leverage the resources of others to assist in this effort. There are many well-meaning individuals and groups who are committed to the same goals we are. We need to bring more of them into the equation and multiply the effect. I'm excited about the possibilities of working with the VPP participants association on this -- and I want to talk more about that later.
We also need to do a better job of identifying our customers, who they are and what they need. Where we can better address those needs, we will.
And Four. We need to encourage and improve voluntary efforts with partnerships on both the macro and micro levels. VPP is the top rung on the ladder -- the ladder of success in pursuing injury and illness reductions. But everyone is not ready to match your efforts or your success. We need to engage all employers, get them on the ladder of injury and illness reductions, and help them move up. We need your help to get more companies started on the ladder. Once they are on, they will see the value and move up.
I deeply appreciate the partnership of VPP. You model excellence for everyone, no matter where they are on the ladder. You demonstrate across a broad array of industries, in businesses of every size, the value that safety and health add to any operation.
Your experiences over the past 19 years prove that achieving excellence in safety and health is well worth the effort. I share the Secretary's view that VPP deserves to be included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act. I hope that will happen during my tenure as Assistant Secretary.
Along with the Secretary, I am especially pleased about our joint venture to expand the number of small businesses that are part of VPP. VPP is a great program and we'd likes to see more businesses take advantage of it.
Doubling the number of small company participants over the next three years will be a challenge. I'm glad your association is willing to take it on. That's the kind of help this country needs -- the kind of help employers need -- the kind of help the American worker needs.
Speaking of help, we do appreciate the help you've already provided to assist OSHA in bringing additional sites into the program. Your mentoring program has clearly been a success. Currently, I understand 130 sites are taking advantage of the help you're offering through this program. That's terrific! And eight companies who've been part of the association's mentoring program have joined VPP in 2001.
I also want to welcome two sites from Curtis Lumber of New York. These workplaces have been part of our SHARP program and are now moving into VPP. I understand Corporate Safety Manager Paul Kniskern, Jr. and Assistant General Manager Jim Whittredge are here representing the company and speaking at the small business workshop. I also understand Mr. Jay Curtis the owner of the company is here as well. Thanks you sir for your outstanding leadership.
I want to also express my personal appreciation, and that of the agency, for those of you who have served as special government employees to assist OSHA with VPP reviews this past year. I understand 56 SGEs helped us this year.
If you have served as a special government employee this past year, would you please stand? Thank you all very much! Let's give them a round of applause.
We in OSHA intend to involve SGEs more aggressively in the future. So we'd like to expand our list of VPP company staff available for loan. Our goal is to sign up 100 new SGEs over the next three years.
I want to particularly note the efforts of GE's Reuben Soto who received an award earlier. We really appreciated his help in the Department of Labor's international outreach to several Latin American countries to promote workplace safety and health.
As we continue to expand our cadre of SGEs this year, we're particularly interested in identifying additional volunteers like Reuben, who can speak Spanish, as we strengthen our outreach to firms that employ Hispanic workers.
As a certified industrial hygienist, I also appreciate the increased emphasis on health program issues in VPP. I hope that you will continue and expand that effort. This country welcomes your help.
Of course, some companies need just a little help. They have the safety and health program in place. But they need to document their achievements. That's where your application workshops have made the difference.
We appreciate the association's inviting potential VPP candidates to walk through the application at the workshops. It's a great opportunity to ask questions of the pros B those who have successfully completed the process. Thank you for taking this on.
I know each of you have a story to tell of what your success in safety and health and VPP recognition has meant to your workplace. There are also some unique efforts to extend VPP values beyond your own workplaces.
For example, we've been working with Potlatch in Idaho. One of OSHA's goals is to reduce injuries, illnesses and fatalities in the logging industry. Potlatch joined forces with the agency to improve safety and health programs among its contract loggers. OSHA conducted training, and with Potlatch's help, we have not had to respond to any accidents or fatalities since this special partnership began about a year ago. Think how many families have been saved.
I'm looking forward to hearing from Jack Hurst in a few minutes. OxyChem is a leader in health and safety and has a great story to tell. Their success demonstrates how to build a superior safety and health program from the ground up B and extend it -- plant by plant and then maintain it among spin-offs, suppliers and customers.
One of the perks of my new position and a personal joy, is the opportunity to work with all of you to build and expand our partnership B not only with individual VPP companies, but also with the association. In addition to the challenging initiative of doubling the number of small businesses in the program over the next three years, there are other endeavors that make sense for us to tackle together.
For example, OSHA and the association have agreed to work together to build on the efforts of the Region VII chapter to reach out to companies on OSHA's Site Specific Targeting (or SST) list -- those sites with less then acceptable injury and illness statistics. These are companies that need to hear from their peers about the positive difference that effective safety and health effort can make. And who better than VPP companies to tell them?
I am asking each OSHA regional administrator to work with VPP participants through the VPP Participants Association national office and the association's regional chapters to meet with sites that have received the letters Davis Layne sent out earlier this summer. The mission you've chosen to accept is laudable. The objective is to seek to impart to SST sites the value of safety and health management systems. The goal is to get these sites started on the ladder.
Another issue that has concerned me -- and we've seen recently in the news -- is safety and health for immigrant workers, particularly those who speak little English. Census data tells us that one in five households include members who speak another language exclusively. The work-related fatality data issued by BLS several weeks ago confirms significant increases in deaths among Hispanic workers last year. We need a strategy to help employers provide safety and health information and training for these workers to prevent injuries, illnesses and fatalities.
Toward that end, the association and OSHA have agreed to work together to find the best ways to reach out to non-English speaking workers and employers. We'll be looking at ideas for outreach, communication, training and mentoring opportunities.
As I said earlier, one of our most important goals for OSHA is to provide leadership on occupational safety and health issues. All of us want to be known for our passion of safety and health -- our expertise in injury and illness prevention and our willingness to share it.
There is no question in my mind -- VPP participants provide the leadership this country needs. And no question that you're willing to share it. I am very proud to be apart of that -- and very proud to be a part of an agency that recognizes the tremendous value you add to safety and health in American workplaces.
Remember OSHA and its partners of the 21st Century will be known for their value add.
As head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- I am your servant. I look forward to working with you to expand our impact together.
|Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|