AIHA: Henshaw Announces Goal of 15% Drop in Fatalities, 20% Drop in Injuries and Illnesses

John L. Henshaw, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), unveiled OSHA's new strategic management plan in a speech today at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Expo (AIHce) in Dallas.

"We can make a difference in the lives of working men and women in this country today," said Henshaw. "Every day, we strive to make the workplace safer for workers in this country. Our new plan will give us a clear roadmap to reach our goals."

Under the new plan, OSHA's three overarching goals are to:

  • Reduce occupational hazards through direct intervention
  • Promote a safety and health culture through compliance assistance, cooperative programs and strong leadership
  • Maximize OSHA's effectiveness and efficiency by strengthening its capabilities and infrastructure.

"In 2002, 73 percent of violations were willful, serious or repeat violations," Henshaw told a large crowd at the AIHce. "We need to find a way to eliminate the cycle of incorporating occupational safety and health fines into the cost of doing business. I find that cycle repugnant," Henshaw said.

The agency's goals are to reduce workplace fatalities by 15% and workplace injuries and illnesses by 20% by 2008. Each year, OSHA will emphasize specific areas to achieve this broader goal; for example, in 2003-2004, OSHA's goal is a 3 percent drop in construction fatalities and a 1 percent drop in general industry fatalities, as well as a 4 percent drop in injuries and illnesses in construction, general industry, and specific industries with high hazard rates including landscaping/horticultural services, oil and gas field services, blast furnace and basic steel products, ship and boat building and repair, and other high hazard industries.

OSHA's strategic management plan also covers issues not traditionally addressed by the agency but that account for many work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths, such as workplace violence and work-related motor vehicle accidents. OSHA intends to use a variety of cooperative programs and outreach efforts to assist employers and employees in addressing these problems. In addition, the agency will focus on emergency preparedness, helping workplaces get ready to respond to workplace emergencies such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

OSHA's vision, said Henshaw, is that "someday, every employer and employee in the nation recognizes occupational safety and health adds value to American business."

The workplace is changing, he noted, saying the following elements have had an impact on workplace safety:

  • The move from a production-based economy to a service-oriented one.
  • Small firms with temporary workers and at-home workers.
  • A diverse workforce, including contractor employees, young and old workers, non-English-speaking workers, women and minorities.
  • Impact from workkplace motor vehicle accidents and violence incidents.
  • New health risks and impact of terrorism.

The new plan will support the Department of Labor's Strategic Plan that will be issued later this year.

Under OSHA's 1997-2002 strategic plan, injuries and illnesses declined in the 100,000 workplaces where there were direct OSHA interventions (such as the consultation program to help small business address its needs); amputations declined by 24% and lead exposures by 69% - the original goal was a 15% reduction in each; fatalities in construction declined 9.5% - just short of the original goal of 11%; and injuries and illnesses were cut by 47% at worksites engaged in cooperative relationships with OSHA.

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