Speeches - (Archived) Table of Contents|
| Information Date:||08/28/2000|
| Presented To:||Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association Conference|
| Speaker:||Jeffress, Charles N.|
Charles N. Jeffress
Voluntary Protection Programs
Participants Association Conference
"Soaring Beyond the Star"
August 28, 2000
So... where do we go from here? Once you've reached the stars, what lies beyond?
And, there's always a "beyond." As Buzz Lightyear, from Toy Story, says: "To infinity -- and beyond!"
I'd like to talk briefly this afternoon about what lies beyond reaching your safety and health goal, what's ahead after you've become a Star site in VPP.
Everyone wants to get better -- whether it's Tiger Woods going for another stroke under par, Mia Hamm booting in another goal or the Dream Team shooting for another Olympic gold medal.
One aspect of soaring beyond the star is continuous improvement -- reaching deeper, higher, further to better your best. That's important. And you'll be exploring that over the next few days. But I want to focus on what's beyond just bettering your own performance.
I want to talk about expanding the circle. For some of you, that may mean adding other sites in your company.
VPP has grown an average of 25% in each of the last 5 years. That's a lot of new sites. And we're projecting similar growth ahead. Additional sites from current VPP partners have led the expansion so far, and we are counting on new VPP partners to continue that tradition.
Many VPP sites aimed for Star because they saw the resounding success of VPP in other corporate facilities. Who wouldn't want to be part of a program that saved 650 participants some $130 million last year?
Expanding the circle within your companies is the first step. I hope many of you will be taking that step -- for the first time or once again -- in the years ahead.
The next movement beyond the star is adding more sites from your communities. Success is catching!
For some, the sight of your flag may be sufficient to pique interest. And your explanation of what VPP is all about may be the only encouragement your neighbors need to pursue the path of excellence.
Others welcome hands-on help. Today 85 would-be Star sites are receiving guidance from current participants. And 44 sites have joined VPP through the help of mentors, including three sites recognized this past year --
Potlatch Corporation -- Southern Unit, Warren, Arkansas mentored by Georgia-Pacific, Zachary, Louisiana
Springs Industries, Inc., -- Hartwell Finishing Plant, Hartwell, Georgia mentored by Georgia-Pacific, Madison, Georgia
West Valley Nuclear Services Co., Inc., (DOE), West Valley, New York mentored by American Ref-Fuel, Niagara Falls, New York
OSHA also welcomes help -- from VPP Volunteers. We could not continue the spectacular growth of this program without your assistance as members of the evaluation teams. Not only does OSHA need help to review safety and health at all the sites that apply for VPP each year, but we gain valuable insights from the perspectives of private sector representatives evaluating one another.
VPP Volunteers make the reviews more comprehensive and useful to the applicants by sharing best practices. Your assistance helps this program grow.
In the last year, the VPP Volunteers program has been streamlined. It's now easier to apply using a revised application. And our improved database helps regional managers better select volunteers based on their professional expertise.
Our cadre of VPP Volunteers has grown from 74 to 124 during the past year. And when 47 newly approved volunteers complete their training and are sworn in this fall, we'll have 170 on our roster. We hope that each VPP Volunteer will be able to participate in at least one evaluation per year.
Serving as a VPP Volunteer is another way to move beyond the star. If you have helped us as a VPP Volunteer this past year, would you please stand? Thank you all very much!
Another aspect of expanding the circle is moving beyond U.S. borders. A number of you have operations around the world. You are leaders in safety and health in the U.S.
Are you serving as models of excellence in the other countries where your international facilities are located? Do your offshore sites match their American counterparts in maintaining low injury and illness rates? Have you adopted first-world safety and health standards for your third-world plants?
I know that some of you have. Some of you have created your own "star" programs for international plants -- like Monsanto Star, Solutia Star, OxyStar, GE Global Star and Westinghouse VPP Equivalent Program. Or you've applied for similar recognition programs in other countries like Mexico, Australia and South Africa.
Others are serving as benchmarks for competitors and colleagues across the sea. Like Newport News Shipbuilding which last fall hosted visitors from Samsung Heavy Industries, a shipbuilder in Koje, Korea. The Samsung group wanted to know more about low injury rates and involving employees in workplace programs.
Worker safety and health issues have recently been moving toward the frontburner of international trade discussions. More than 50 U.S. college campuses have chapters of United Students Against Sweatshops. USAS seeks to persuade students as well as universities buying licensed apparel to boycott manufacturers that contract with overseas factories where workers labor for low wages in unsafe conditions. This group is expanding, and its influence is growing. It will be a short step from the focus on apparel to a focus on other consumer products.
And no one can forget the dramatic protest against the World Trade Organization at its ministerial meeting here in Seattle last November. Or more recent protests against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in April and against the Organization of American States in Windsor, Ontario in June. One of the primary issues in these protests is the safety and health of third-world workers hired by first-world companies -- or their contractors.
Of course, OSHA doesn't have jurisdiction over foreign plants or cover foreign workers. Many nations have their own standards for worker safety and health. But some do not. And others have inadequate requirements or little or no enforcement of any rules on the books.
If you're ready to move beyond star, one way to do it is to follow the example of other VPP international companies and adopt the same standards -- and the same expectations for meeting those standards -- at every facility you own -- around the globe. If you're a leader here, be a leader there. Make safety and health the same priority in your international facilities -- and for your foreign contractors -- as you do in this country.
VPP participants are the employers of choice in the U.S. Workers want to be part of a first-class organization that puts top priority on their safety and health. Workers in Indonesia, Guatemala and Bangladesh are no different. Going home whole and healthy at the end of a long workday is equally important to them. We're exporting our products to these developing nations, and we're exporting our labor-intensive jobs. We need to export our best safety and health practices as well.
In the same way that VPP mentors extend a helping hand here in the U.S., I'd like to see you mentoring industries in developing countries. Let's share best practices with them just as we do here. Your expertise and your practical experience coupled with your commitment to excellence can make a big difference. Start with your own sites overseas, then your contractors. Let's show them the difference that excellence in safety and health can make.
Working with international partners is something OSHA is emphasizing more and more. We've been involved in lengthy and somewhat trying efforts to bring harmony to hazard communication systems across the globe. It's an arduous task, and it's taken much longer than we hoped. But we think the payoff will be well worth the effort.
We've also established a working partnership with the European Union. Our goal is to eliminate trade barriers as well as share effective strategies for addressing workplace safety and health hazards. Recently we launched a joint webpage featuring hazard information and recommended safety and health practices from all 15 member countries.
Two years ago, we met in Luxembourg to formalize the partnership and exchange information. This November, European representatives will join us in San Francisco for another tri-partite session. Some of you will be representing your industries and unions there. This meeting will focus on four key issues: ergonomics, safety and health programs, small and medium size businesses, and worker rights and participation in safety and health efforts.
OSHA is also participating in technical co-operation projects in a number of countries around the world. We're working with South Africa on training inspectors and providing more information to their compliance staff via the Internet. We've helped update their policy manual.
We've had a team in Bangladesh to evaluate safety and health concerns there. They looked at a leather tannery, a triple super phosphate fertilizer plant, a seafood processing plant, a jute mill and a ship-breaking yard. Employers and workers there desperately need to know more about how to protect workers exposed to hazardous substances, when and how to use personal protective equipment, how to guard machinery, among other areas.
We're also pursuing a regional project in Central America with the construction industry as those countries rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch last year. Last week, we began a safety awareness campaign in eight countries, led by joint labor-management teams from U.S. companies. We appreciate the willingness of ConAgra and G.E. to work with us on those projects.
National and regional chapters of VPPPA may also want to step forward independently to strengthen worker safety and health internationally. Perhaps you'd want to sponsor an international forum for workplace safety and health, showcasing best practices in the U.S. across a variety of industries. Or maybe you'd like to focus on a common hazard or problem with many possible solutions. You can share American ingenuity and perhaps benefit from creative ideas developed abroad as well.
I challenge each of you. Don't quit while you're ahead. Don't stop striving to be the best that you can be. You're making a difference that matters -- on a global scale and on a personal scale.
Excellence matters. It matters to OSHA, and to you, and to your employees. It also matters to others in our communities, our country and the world.
You've reached your goals. But there's always another star out there. And you can do more than wish on it.
Let's work together to soar beyond our stars and help others reach theirs.
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