|• Information Date:||02/13/2008|
|• Presented To:||National Association of Tower Erectors|
|• Speaker:||Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.|
Remarks Prepared For
Edwin G. Foulke, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE)
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Tower climbing remains the most dangerous job in America. The majority of fatalities are the result of climbers not being tied off to a safe anchorage point at all times or relying upon faulty personal protection equipment. Many fatalities have occurred during the erection, retrofitting or dismantling of a tower. "Tie or Die!" has become synonymous with the requirement for 100 percent fall protection.
The relationship that we have developed through our Partnership has opened up lines of communication and allowed us to focus on what is most important: At the end of every work day, we want to see everyone in the industry return home to families and friends, alive and well.
With this in mind, I want to speak to you from the heart about what happens when an employee becomes ill or injured on the job.
Many of you know what it is like to see an employee come to work in the morning but suddenly have to leave before the day is done because of a severe illness or injury. It is always a shock. Maybe some of you have had the sad responsibility of informing an employee's family that their loved one will not be coming home safe and healthy. Saddest of all is when an investigation reveals how an injury, illness or fatality could have been prevented.
HIDDEN COSTS OF WORKPLACE INJURIES AND ILLNESSES
There is another angle to this story that some employers fail to consider - the impact that injuries and illness have on business productivity and the strength of our nation.
It comes down to this: Protecting employees is every employer's legal - and, I believe, moral - responsibility, but it also makes good business sense.
Here is why: Every year, workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities cost businesses in America more than $170 billion. In today's highly competitive global economy, when employers are looking for ways to reduce costs, any savings is important. In many cases, even a one percent savings can mean the difference between a company succeeding here or facing the unhappy choice of shipping American jobs out of the country - just to remain competitive.
That is why OSHA maintains that businesses that focus on prevention see their injury and illness rates substantially reduced, with significant insurance savings that can be better invested in the business' future.
MAKING THE BUSINESS CASE
The good news is that there are ample studies and data to support this claim, and they are available for everyone to see on OSHA's Web site - www.osha.gov. On our website is a Safety and Health Topics page, "Making the Business Case for Safety and Health," that shows how employers are realizing significant economic benefits while also fulfilling their safety and health responsibilities to their employees.
The free resources, case studies and safety and health information found on this Topics Page and elsewhere on OSHA's website provide excellent reference materials to help employers become more successful.
Since we launched the "Making the Business Case" page in September 2006, it has received more than 41,000 visits. This page is a product of several of OSHA's Alliances with trade and professional organizations, including the American Society of Safety Engineers, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Safety Council, and the American Industrial Hygiene Association. This is an example of how OSHA works with industry. We share our knowledge and expertise, and we find ways to reach out to employers and employees to give them the information they need to stay safe and healthy - on and off the job.
Also, on OSHA's website, we are redesigning our Small Business Assistance page to better serve the business community. For example, in January 2008, we posted on our website an exciting new feature, the "Safety Pays" eTool. Many materials and information posted on OSHA's webpage have been developed through our partnerships and alliances with business and industry organizations.
The information is all free. Think of OSHA as your chief RESOURCE.
For more assistance, visit the OSHA-NATE Partnership webpage on OSHA's website, which you can also link to from NATE's website. Here you can find resources and learn about activities developed through our public-private partnership.
I encourage you to visit OSHA's information booth in this conference's exhibit hall. OSHA staff members are eager to meet you. They have great compliance assistance materials, information about our cooperative programs, and tips on how to get the most out of the resources on our website. OSHA staff members also are ready to answer questions and assist any way they can.
For individual businesses that would like to learn more about how to address hazards at their worksites, OSHA has a program for you. Our On-site Consultation Program provides free, confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country.
With the On-site Consultation Program, professionally trained consultants will come to an office or plant at the invitation of a business owner, and they will perform a survey and provide advice about existing or potential safety and health hazards that they observe in a facility.
These consultants can suggest ways to address the problems they find, they can identify other help if further assistance is needed, and they will provide employers with a written summary of the findings.
Consultation services are totally separate from enforcement. An on-site consultation will not result in citations or penalties (as long as the employer agrees to remedy any problems that are found during the consultation).
Businesses that participate in the program see almost immediate results. The program has delivered free safety and health assistance to half a million employers for more than three decades.
I urge you to contact your state's OSHA's On-site Consultation office to learn how you can benefit from this free service.
OSHA's Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Acceptance into SHARP by OSHA is an achievement of status that will single you out among your business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. Upon receiving SHARP recognition, your worksite will be exempt from programmed inspections during the period that your SHARP certification is valid.
I also want everyone here to know about the OSHA Challenge Program. OSHA Challenge is a three-phase process where participants are mentored by an independent, non-OSHA Challenge Administrator to strive for the highest standards of workplace safety and health.
For each stage, actions, documentation and outcomes are identified using an easy-to-use online management tool. OSHA provides limited recognition as each stage is completed.
The benefits are dramatic and quickly evident. Our tracking shows that within one year of joining the Challenge Program, participating construction businesses report reductions in their injury and illness rates averaging 40 percent!
Upon successful completion of the OSHA Challenge Program, applicants are welcome and encouraged to apply for the most prestigious level of our cooperative programs, our Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP).
I want to congratulate NATE for the leadership role it has assumed in safety and health for the tower industry.
I also want to thank NATE for its great job promoting the Partnership and the superior, lasting benefits of VPP.
OSHA's data and more than 3 decades of experience show that businesses that implement effective safety and health management systems can expect to see their injury and illness rates substantially reduced, with significant benefits to a business' bottom line.
We see proof of these benefits in the superior performance of companies and organizations operating under OSHA's Cooperative Programs. Businesses that participate in VPP find that when their worksites operate under a comprehensive safety and health management system, their injury rates are half their industry average. When you think in terms of the benefits - lower costs, higher morale, and higher productivity - working with OSHA to protect employees can give businesses a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace.
VPP has changed the culture and the lives of hundreds of other companies across America. For example, GE is one of our VPP Corporate Participants. By focusing on safety and health as a cornerstone of its business plan and moving more and more of its facilities to the VPP level, GE successfully reduced its corporate-wide recordable rate of injuries over the last decade by 75 percent, and lowered insurance premiums accordingly, to achieve a savings of $61.5 million... per year!
SPECIAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES
I will wrap up my discussion about our Cooperative Programs by telling you about the opportunity to become a Special Government Employee -or SGE.
SGEs play an important role in helping to ensure the highest level of safety and health at workplaces throughout the country. Working alongside OSHA on site visits to prospective VPP facilities, SGEs provide the perspective of labor and industry and help extend OSHA's reach to businesses across the nation.
The benefits of being a Special Government Employee are reciprocal, because SGEs also bring back to their worksites many useful safety and health lessons observed at other facilities.
SGEs now accompany OSHA specialists on 90 percent of our on-site visits. They perform a valuable service by helping others in your industry to achieve safety and health excellence.
Today we have 855 trained as SGEs, and we always need more.
We hope that participants in VPP will strongly encourage their employees to volunteer for this program.
VPP PRESENTATION: MID-AMERICA TOWER SERVICE
Finally, we have with us today a member of the OSHA-NATE Partnership that knows about VPP firsthand.
Mid-America Tower Service (MATS) is the first tower erector company to reach VPP status. I want to congratulate MATS for its forward thinking and management's commitment to making employee safety and health a cornerstone in the company's operating plan. I also want to congratulate management and employees for sitting down together and recognizing how safety and health benefits everyone.
Mid America's three-year (2003-2005) TCIR and DART rates were both ZERO, 100 percent below the 2005 BLS published rate of 6.8. A review of injury and illness data for the years 2003 through 2007 also indicates that the number of injuries or illnesses among MidAmerica's contractor employees also was...ZERO!
I want to thank Phil Van Swol, owner of MATS, for his leadership as I invite him to accept this VPP flag.