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Mr. ENZI. Mr. President, I rise to introduce the Safety Advancement for Employees (SAFE) Act of 2004. Every worker in America deserves to return home safely at the end of the day. However, more than 5,500 workers die while at work annually. This means that, on any given day, 15 workers will not return home to their families. The fact that these accidents are occurring is not because employers don't care about workplace safety. On the contrary, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, estimated that 95 percent of employers are striving to create a safer workplace. The vast majority of employers want to comply with safety laws. Therefore, any effort to significantly improve workplace safety by focusing solely on the small percentage of bad actors who willfully break the law is doomed to failure.

We don't need political rhetoric, we need workable solutions. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, I felt responsible for finding a solution that will succeed in protecting more workers from harm. I feel a responsibility to every worker and every worker's family to do all I can to prevent workplace accidents and deaths. The SAFE Act will provide the systematic safety improvements that American workers and their families deserve. This legislation helps the vast majority of good faith employers who want to achieve compliance with safety laws. They just need help doing so -- more help than OSHA can currently give them. The SAFE Act also allows OSHA to effectively target the few bad actors who willfully place their employees at risk. It also includes provisions to improve hazard communication and reduce injuries and illnesses caused by the presence of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

The SAFE Act of 2004 will increase the maximum jail sentence for a willful safety violation that results in a worker's death from 6 months, which is a misdemeanor, to 18 months, which is a felony. It would be naïve to believe that increasing the criminal penalty by itself will significantly improve workplace safety. Increasing the maximum jail sentence for bad actors will do nothing to help improve the workplace safety records of the 95 percent of employers who want to do the right thing.

I want to prevent the accident in the first place, not just penalize the employer for an injury or death that could have been avoided. By then, it's too late for the victim and their family. We need a system that encourages the good faith employers to find out how to achieve safety voluntarily and without fear of retribution. We need a system that harnesses the resources of safety experts so employers can achieve compliance with safety laws. And, we need a system that can target and punish the few bad employers. This is the system promoted by the Safety Advancement for Employees, or SAFE, Act. The SAFE Act will save workers' lives.

The SAFE Act is a workable solution that will effectively add thousands of highly-trained safety and health professionals to the job of inspecting workplaces around the country. Why is enlisting third party safety experts so critical to the effort of getting employers to comply with safety laws? Because OSHA, the government agency responsible for regulating safety laws, can't do it alone. OSHA should be providing helpful assistance to the overwhelming number of employers who are pursuing safer workplaces. Simultaneously, OSHA should be targeting those employers who are willfully disregarding safety laws, inspecting them, penalizing them, and following up to make sure that bad practices are stopped before accidents occur.

It has been estimated that it would take OSHA over 167 years to inspect every work site in the country. Therefore, OSHA cannot effectively help those good faith employers or deter bad employers from breaking the law. This is why the SAFE Act is so important. It will allow highly-trained safety and health professionals to reach work sites all over the country, where OSHA hasn't even been able to make a dent, encouraging employers to get into compliance voluntarily.

These highly-trained consultants will work with employers to get them into compliance with safety laws. If the employer gets into compliance, the employer can receive a certificate of compliance which will exempt him from civil penalties only for one year. However, at all times and under all circumstances, OSHA remains free to inspect these work sites.

The third-party consultation program is particularly important for small businesses. Employers have to read through and implement over a thousand pages of highly technical safety regulations. Too often, employers are left on their own to try to understand and comply with all these regulations. It is hard enough for large employers who have an in-house staff of safety experts. For the small employer - whose safety "expert" is also the human resources manager, accountant, and systems administrator - the task is nearly impossible. We're talking about employers who want to do the right thing, who want to comply with the law and protect their workers. They just need help doing so - help that OSHA is not currently equipped to provide.

In a report published in March, 2004, the General Accounting Office cited the use of third party consultants among a list of recommendations by researchers, safety and health practitioners, and specialists, to achieve voluntary OSHA compliance. According to the GAO report:

"Using Consultants could leverage existing OSHA resources by helping workplaces that might never otherwise see an OSHA inspector, especially small employers, and possibly also by enabling employers to address additional safety and health issues that might not be covered under an OSHA inspection for compliance standards."

We need to leverage the resources of OSHA and the private sector to improve occupational safety around the country - in large and small workplaces alike.

Nowhere is the safety and health challenge more daunting for small businesses than it is in the area of hazard communication. Hazardous chemicals pervade the 21st Century workplace. An estimated 650,000 hazardous chemical products are used in over 3 million workplaces across the country. Everyday, more than 30 million American workers will be exposed to hazardous chemicals on the job. Whether or not they return home safely at the end of the day depends on their awareness of these hazards and appropriate precautionary measures. Communication is the key to protecting the safety and health of these 30 million workers. However, the protection is only as effective as the communication.

Twenty years ago, OSHA adopted the Hazard Communication Standard. Material Safety Data Sheets are the cornerstone of hazard communication. The chemical manufacturer or importer evaluates the chemical and provides employers with information about its hazards and protective measures on the Material Safety Data Sheet, which employers must then provide to workers.

OSHA's rule provides a generic framework for hazard communication. With over 650,000 chemicals in use, and tens of thousands of chemical manufacturers, the clarity, format, and accuracy of Material Safety Data Sheets varies widely. If the Material Safety Data Sheet is stuffed in some thick binder gathering dust, the worker doesn't have time to shuffle through the pages of complex, technical jargon it includes. Workers shouldn't need a Ph.D. in biochemistry to know how to protect themselves against hazardous chemicals.

Twenty years after the Hazard Communication standard was published, it's time for review. It's time to heed the call of workers and employers alike for more clarity, consistency, accuracy, and guidance. Over the years, I've had the great fortune to work with Ron Hayes on improving the safety and health of American workers. Ron wrote me a letter I'd like to submit for the record. He writes that: "Other standards cover many issues for the workers, but the [Material Safety Data Sheet] paperwork is used millions of times each workday, and the accuracy of these sheets [is] of paramount importance for the complete protection of our most important resource, our great American workers."

To improve the protection of our great American workers from hazardous chemicals, the new SAFE Act requires OSHA to develop and post on its website model material safety data sheets for those highly hazardous chemicals listed on the Process Safety Management Standard. These models will be particularly helpful to small businesses that don't have the expertise to develop or decipher their own.

In the twenty years since the Hazard Communication Standard was adopted, the American workplace has changed dramatically. Electronic or internet-based systems not envisioned twenty years ago can significantly improve hazard communication. The new SAFE Act recognizes the promise of technology to improve hazard communication. The legislation creates grants to develop, implement, or evaluate strategies to improve hazard communication through the use of better technology.

In the past twenty years, our workforce has become increasingly diverse. Effective hazard communication should reflect the fact that numerous languages may be spoken at a single worksite. Our economy has also become increasingly global. The chemical industry is one of the United States' largest exporting sectors. The manner is which other countries regulate hazardous chemicals impacts an American manufacturer's ability to complete in the global marketplace.

In 2002, the United Nations adopted the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. The Globally Harmonized System is designed to improve the quality of hazard communication by establishing standardized requirements for hazard evaluation, safety data sheets, and labels. The Globally Harmonized System has the potential to address significant concerns with current hazard communication. Whether the United States adopts it cannot be decided by OSHA alone. Other agencies involved in regulating hazardous chemicals must be involved. Key stakeholders in hazard communication - chemical manufacturers, employers, workers, and safety and health experts - must also be involved. For this reason, the new SAFE Act establishes a commission of relevant Federal agencies and stakeholders to study and make recommendations to Congress about the adoption of the Globally Harmonized System.

The SAFE Act sets us firmly on the path towards achieving the goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act to "assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the nation safe and healthful working conditions." Enforcement alone cannot ensure the safety and health of America's workforce. Government and the private sector can - and must - work together to create a culture where safety and health is the number one priority.

I first introduced the SAFE Act in 1997. Today, the call for meaningful OSHA reform through cooperative and proactive efforts is even louder. The more time that passes without taking such action, the more injuries and deaths will occur that could otherwise be avoided. As I introduce the new SAFE Act today, I hope that we can again begin meaningful discussions about what is involved in achieving safer workplaces. I also hope that we can actually pass the SAFE Act and achieve greater safety and health for our most important resource -- our great American worker.

Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the Floor.