Speeches

Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Governorís Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Conference
September 29, 2004


Thank you Paul, and good morning everyone. Welcome to the 53rd annual Safety and Health Conference. And thank you Paul for excellent leadership at L&I and thanks Martin for your work as President of the Governorís Industrial Safety and Health Advisory Board and helping plan and put on this conference.

Itís great to be back here for this conference again. And itís great to see so many of you here todayóall committed to safe and healthy work environments.

People come first in any workplace. The work that you are doing at this conference is so important to the success of those workers and their families, and ultimately the businesses employing them. And 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.

We continue to work on reducing the injury rate in our state. Weíve rewritten many of the industrial standards into plain language because we want everyone to easily understand what it takes to make a workplace safe.

Weíve made great progress. But we can do better. In the last few years, there have been several fatalities due to preventable hazards. Automobile accidents. Flaggers hit on roadways. Workers trapped in confined spaces. Trench collapses, as Paul observed. 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 stop avoidable injuries and sicknesses. We never want to work afraid, but we definitely want to keep working smarter. Every worker must be aware of the work environment. Every worker must understand safety procedures and healthy practices. Every worker must know what to do in an emergency. And every worker should look out for others and help them when they are in trouble.

Prevention must be our primary focus because the only acceptable injury and fatality rate is zero.

Health and safety is everyoneís business. We must always remember that injuries at work arenít inevitable. 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. We must continue to reduce injuries, save costs, and protect jobs. And L&I will work with employers on education programs to reduce ergonomics-related injuries.

Letís also continue our efforts to improve teen safety. Weíve all read the studies. Teens have an injury rate thatís 2.5 to 3 times higher than that of adult workers. This includes serious injuries with lifelong disability.

Thatís 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. Weíre 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.

I want to share with you an inspiring example of outstanding commitment to teen safety. I want to tell you about Joel Pederson, a 15-year-old sophomore at Black Hills High School in Tumwater.

Joel attended this conference last year and was inspired by what he learned. Inspired enough to turn his intense commitment to teen safety education and awareness into action.

Since then, Joel has created a 13-week elective safety program at his high school. He has been in contact with and worked with a number of safety professionals. He corresponds with the speaker you just heard from, our Director of Labor & Industries, Paul Trause. And heíll be a presenter at this conference at a teen safety awareness workshop.

Thatís what I call a commitment to safetyóLetís give Joel Pederson a hand!

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. These differences cannot become a barrier to improving worker safety and health.

Additionally, the workforce is getting older. 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 partnersógovernment, 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 52 heroes epitomize caring about human life and acting decisively to try to save lives.

People like Gary Davis of Olympia, who braved the flaming wreckage of a terrible car crash to save the life of a seven-year-old boy.

People like Brian Robertson, Kurt Barnett, Jason Boyd and Nick Bellotti of Selah, who used ropes and teamwork to free a river rafter trapped underwater beneath a log, and performed CPR until EMTs arrived.

People like Pat Kelly of Everett, who chased after and jumped into a car that was slowly weaving toward a busy intersection and stopped the vehicle just in timeóand awakened the sleeping driver.

People like Gary Eyler and Barney Ryan of Spokane, who kept an overturned construction vehicle from crushing the operator pinned underneath until help arrived.

And people like Paul Moore and Susan Moore of Tacoma, who saved a boy caught in a riptide near Ilwaco.

We are grateful for all of todayís 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.

Thanks again for your participation in this conference. This will be my last conference as governor. Iím proud of the progress weíve made in Washington state. Iím proud of L&I and Iím proud of all of you. Thank you for your commitment to safety and health in the workplace.

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