Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board
September 17, 2003

Thank you Paul, and good morning everyone.

Welcome to the 52nd annual Safety and Health Conference.

And thank you Paul for excellent leadership as President of the Governor’s Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board.

It’s great to see so many here today—all of you committed to safe and healthy work environments.

The work that you do is more important than anything else that happens in your workplace.

Because people come first.

Without a safe, healthy work environment, nothing else matters.

On behalf of the people of Washington, thank you for your dedication.

Thank you for making an important and positive difference in the lives of countless others.

Our state has been a pioneer in workplace safety since the first conference more than a half century ago.

And as Paul pointed out, we’ve recently made some significant gains in workplace safety and health. There has been a reduction of accidents by 8.4% since 2000; 33% since 1992.

We continue to reduce the injury rate in our state.

We’ve rewritten many of the industrial standards into plain language.

To make it easier for everyone to understand what it takes to make a workplace safe.

But we can do better.

In the last year, there have been several fatalities due to preventable hazards.

Flaggers hit on roadways.

Workers trapped in confined spaces.

Trench collapses.

Electrical contact.

These hazards continue to claim the lives of workers.

Each of the workers lost in these accidents left home to go to work one day, expecting to return.

It is sad and senseless that they never made it back.

We must work together to make such avoidable injuries and sicknesses stop.

Prevention must be our primary focus.

The only acceptable injury and fatality rate is zero.

Health and safety is everyone’s business.

Injuries at work aren’t accidents.

They are avoidable.

Ergonomics is a perfect example.

Some 50,000 preventable ergonomic-related injuries occur every year in our state.

We must reduce employee exposure to workplace hazards that cause or aggravate work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

And as we continue to implement the Ergonomics Rule we will continue to reduce injuries, save costs, and protect jobs.

Some are attempting to prohibit our state from moving forward to reduce ergo-related injuries, Initiative 841. They are misleading the public when they say the Competitiveness Council called for repealing our rules. This is false. They called for a delay which we have done. I oppose Initiative 841.

Let’s also continue our efforts to improve teen safety.

We’ve all read the studies.

Teens have an injury rate that’s 2.5 to 3 times higher than that of adult workers.

This includes serious injuries with lifelong disability.

That’s why I strongly support the School-to-Work program.

This program for teachers and students promotes safety and health for young workers.

It educates our future workforce early.

And we’re hopeful that by educating young workers, we can reduce their injury rate and instill an ethic of safety and health that will serve them in their adult years.

We face some new challenges in our state.

Our demographics are changing.

A significant portion of our population does not speak English as a primary language.

We must address language and cultural differences that affect safety and health in the workplace.

Additionally, the workforce is getting older.

The number of workers 55 and older will increase by 47%.

We value the work ethic and experience of these older workers.

And we must also design the workplace of the future to meet their needs.

I am confident that together, we will continue to improve workplace safety and health in Washington.

We will succeed by working as partners—government, business, and labor.

We will succeed by remembering that human life, safety and health are at stake.

This morning we will pay tribute to some people who saw what was at stake and did something about it.

These 27 heroes represent the epitome of caring about human life and acting decisively to save lives.

People like Rick Haberman, Carly Fitter and Missy Harvold of Ellensberg, who worked as a team to save a co-worker’s life when he suffered cardiac arrest.

People like Greg Meinhold of Everett, whose quick-thinking and fast action rescued a man from drowning.

People like Dorie Kness and Dan Hill from Spokane, who witnessed an accident of two overturned cars and pulled one driver from her burning car and aided the other driver who was thrown from the other car.

And people like University of Washington basketball players Loree Payne, Julianna and Gioconda Mendiola, and Erica Schelly, who revived their teammate Kayla Burt and kept her heart beating until help arrived.

We are grateful for all of today’s award winners.

These are true profiles in courage.

To save a life is a profound contribution to humanity.

For the victims saved, and for their families.

But also for every one of us.

Such heroism elevates the human spirit and inspires us.

The selfless act of one human being ennobles all of us.

I know you are as honored as I am to be a part of this awards presentation.

Thank you for participating in this conference, and thank you for your commitment to safety and health in the workplace. The statistics show you’re making a big difference.

Access Washington