American Society of Safety Engineers Join Brief to Support Employer Right to Determine Workplace Safety Rules
Des Plaines, IL (March 4, 2008) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) joined with ASIS International and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in recently filing an amici curiae brief urging the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm a 2007 federal district court ruling that found two so-called “forced entry laws” in Oklahoma unconstitutional. The Oklahoma laws would have prevented employers from setting workplace safety rules barring guns to be brought on employer property in a locked vehicle.
The U.S. Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, in a suit filed against Oklahoma by ConocoPhillips and other employer plaintiffs (ConocoPhillips v. Henry), held that the Oklahoma’s “forced entry laws” conflicted with the general duty clause of the federal Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. The general duty clause requires employers to protect their employees against avoidable and recognizable hazards that may not be addressed by specific workplace safety and health standards promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Since federal laws preempt state law, the OSH Act preempted the Oklahoma laws.
“We are pleased today to be able to support employers’ most fundamental right, which is to determine how best to run their businesses and keep their employees and property safe,” said ASSE President Michael W. Thompson, CSP. “Employers hire our member safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals to determine just how best to protect workers. Whether, in their best judgment, protecting workers and property means keeping guns out of parking lots or not, that decision must be made by an employer and an SH&E professional. Those sometimes difficult decisions cannot be made by a state governor or legislature substituting political decisions for professional judgment about how best to protect workers under duties employers have under the OSH Act’s general duty clause.”
“Preventing violence is just one of many workplace safety, health and environmental issues our members work hard each day with employers to address so that workers are able to go home safe and healthy from their jobs each day,” added Thompson. “A law such as Oklahoma’s forced entry laws, if reinstated, would undermine our members’ professional ability to give advice to Oklahoma employers on workplace safety and it means that Oklahoma workplaces would be less safe.”
The cost of workplace violence to employers alone has been estimated at $4 billion a year, which is supported by ASSE’s “2004 Workplace Violence Survey and White Paper.”
According to the Department of Labor’s BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2006, workplace homicides ranked as the fourth cause of on-the-job deaths, claiming the lives of 516 workers with more than 80 percent of those workers being shot.
ASIS International, founded in 1955, is an international organization of professionals responsible for security at corporate and government facilities. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is a non-profit organization working to reduce handgun deaths and injuries through education, research and legal advocacy.
For a full copy of the “ASSE 2004 Workplace Violence Survey & White Paper” please go to http://www.asse.org/newsroom/releases/press394_survey.pdf . Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 31,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org.