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ASSE Agrees With Fed Agency’s Rebuke of Florida for Failing to Act on Public Sector Employee Safety

Posted in on Wed, Jul 20, 2011

DES PLAINES, IL (July 20, 2011) –  The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) commends the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) for its  commitment to the safety and health of thousands of Florida’s state, county and municipal workers for undertaking the investigation into the January 2006 methanol fire and explosion at the Bethune Wastewater Treatment plant in Daytona Beach that killed two public workers and seriously injured a third. ASSE agrees with CSB’s July 18, 2011, declaration that Florida’s inaction and failure to adopt CSB recommendations to provide federal-level workplace protections for its public sector workers is unacceptable.

“Beyond the obvious moral responsibility to protect its workers, at a time when taxpayers are looking for government to be as efficient and cost-effective as business, the most basic risk-management tool most businesses understand is that protecting workers on the job saves money,” said Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, ASSE President.  “ASSE joins with CSB in urging Florida to do what employers across the country do by holding itself, its counties and municipalities accountable for the tangible and intangible costs associated with ignoring workplace safety and health risks.  No one really knows how much Florida taxpayers are paying for workers’ injuries and illnesses, lost days and workers compensation costs.  The time has come for those costs to see the light of day.”

Spurred by CSB’s 2006 investigation, ASSE member-led efforts in Florida resulted in the establishment by the Florida legislature of a task force that, in 2008, made recommendations to the governor and the legislature on how to protect Florida’s public sector workers.  Those recommendations resulted in the only effort in the nation to advance workplace safety and health protections through legislation supported by business, labor and the profession.  In 2009, a bill to enact those recommendations passed the Florida House but was not heard in the Senate.

Federal law exempts public sector workers from protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 in states that do not have federally approved occupational safety and health programs.  About eight million public sector workers across the U.S. do not have the same workplace safety and health protections guaranteed all other workers under federal law.   Florida’s public sector safety and health program was disbanded in 2000.

Founded in 1911 and celebrating its centennial, the 100-year-old ASSE is the oldest safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 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. Go to http://www.asse.org/professionalaffairs_new/action/FL-public-sector.php for more information on ASSE’s Florida efforts and to www.asse.org/newsroom for additional ASSE information.

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