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Saving Lives, Helping Business

An iron worker with 20 years of experience and two previous falls -- one that kept him out of work for a full year -- slipped on an icy bar joist and fell toward the ground. This time, his fall was broken by a safety system harness. He was unharmed and returned to work almost immediately.

A deck installer was leaning forward and fell. Fortunately, he was caught by a cable that was part of a fall protection system laid on the deck. He literally climbed back up on the deck by himself, got new safety equipment, reinstalled the cable, and went back to work. He would have fallen 42 feet if the fall protection system had not been in place.

These two workers, and thousands of others like them, would have been maimed or killed in previous years without these safety systems. Thanks to the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of lives have been saved, and millions of dollars have not been spent on treating injuries and illnesses.

A Reinvented OSHA Partners for Safety and Health

OSHA's partnerships with industry and labor have achieved positive results. A recent review of OSHA's Strategic Partnership Program participants at nearly 3,000 worksites demonstrates that comprehensive safety and health programs reduce injuries, illnesses, and workers' compensation costs while maintaining or improving production. While employment is at an all-time high, job-related fatalities are at an all-time low. Injury and illness rates are also down, notably since 1993. In 1998, nearly 50,000 fewer workers needed time away from their jobs due to injuries and illness.

In 1995, OSHA's Atlanta East Area Office was one of the first area offices redesigned to improve customer service under OSHA's GRIP program: Getting Results and Improving Performance. Atlanta East joined forces with Argonaut Insurance Co. to provide a safety seminar and on-site risk assessments. One of the risk assessments, conducted jointly with a Georgia Tech consultation program and Argonaut, led Horizon Steel Erectors, Inc., to establish a 100 percent fall protection program in all phases of construction. In addition, Horizon Steel implemented front-line accountability that resulted in a 96 percent reduction in accident costs per man-hour (from $4.26 to $.018). Total costs of claims also fell from $1.063 million to $13,200.

Since small businesses are particularly vulnerable to workplace injuries, OSHA has adopted new ways of working with these employers. These include free on-site consultations, interactive computer software, technical information, and easy-to-follow guides for specific OSHA standards.

In addition, in March 1999, OSHA hosted its first small business forum reaching out to small businesses and letting them know what help is available.

OSHA - Past, Present, and Future

OSHA encourages all businesses to set up safety and health programs that prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. In the past, OSHA's cotton dust standard virtually eliminated new cases of brown lung disease in the textile industry; deaths from trench cave-ins declined by 35 percent after OSHA's trenching standard was revised; and OSHA's lead standard reduced blood poisoning in battery plant and smelter workers by two-thirds.

Over 6,000 workers still die each year on the job, more than 6 million are injured, and almost 500,000 experience occupational illnesses. Today, however, fewer workers are injured and die on the job thanks to OSHA standards, enforcement, and cooperative relationships with employers.

As OSHA approaches its 30th anniversary, the agency is exploring new and innovative ways to protect American workers. As part of its "reinvention," OSHA is changing the way it does business by taking a more common sense approach to worker safety and health.

For more information on all OSHA services for small business, visit the OSHA Internet site. (For your convenience, this site includes links to local OSHA offices throughout the U.S. as well as links to the Small Business Administration Internet site) Or, contact Art DeCoursey, OSHA's Small Business Liaison at (202) 693-1900.

If you have an EMERGENCY and need to report a fatality or imminent, life-threatening situation, call OSHA’s toll free hotline at (800) 321-OSHA (6742).


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