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ASSE Article on Externally Reported Occupational Health and Safety Data Highlights Importance of Linking Business Value and Safety

Posted in on Fri, Aug 19, 2011

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) recently featured an article in its Journal of Safety, Health and Environmental Research that focuses on occupational health and safety (OHS) metrics and the extent that OHS external reporting is utilized among leading manufacturing firms.  Sustainability reporting is becoming the norm among the world’s largest companies and is becoming increasingly more important to the safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional.

In the article, titled, “Externally Reported Occupational Health and Safety Data Among U.S. Manufacturing Firms,” authors Michael Behm , PhD, CSP, associate professor at Eastern Carolina University and Arthur Schneller, a health compliance officer with the North Carolina Department of Labor, aim to provide best practices for future use of OHS metrics and assist organizations to operationalize, measure and report OHS and sustainability metrics more effectively. The article evaluates the externally reported OHS metrics from the top 50 manufacturing firms as listed in IndustryWeek’s Top 500 firm list from 2009, and evaluates those metrics and practices to determine OHS and sustainability reporting methods and areas for improvement.

Through their research, Behm and Schneller discovered that very few companies are reporting OHS information externally.  The authors note that there is growing data to suggest that good OHS performance, management and practices are linked with business value, thus making it important for businesses to focus on reporting of OHS items externally.  The authors note that external reporting helps establish goodwill and demonstrates a level of ethical standards, thus promoting transparency when it comes to OHS and sustainability measures.   Previous research has shown that many companies do not associate OHS with sustainability efforts and financial performance, thus marking OHS as a component that has not been widely recognized as having a business value.

Behm and Schneller also address skepticism about environmental voluntary disclosures, which has been labeled “green washing.”  In the OHS realm, Behm and Schneller label this concept “worker washing,” and introduce that term for consideration in broader use.  “Worker washing” is exacerbated by the issue of under-reporting in injury and illness records among businesses. The authors recommend a focus on meaningful employee involvement in OHS that would serve as a path forward for firms seeking to legitimize OHS endeavors in the broader social and financial arenas.

ASSE recently formed a Sustainability Task Force to assess how safety, health and environmental professionals can enhance and advance their role in sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR).  ASSE is taking the lead when it comes to developing clear, measurable and effective external measurements for OHS and reporting, and authors Behm and Schneller note that future reporting on OHS in the areas of sustainability and corporate social responsibility should be investigated more thoroughly.  Safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals have two distinct roles when it comes to CSR, including understanding of environmental sustainability issues and understanding the safety function from a sustainability standpoint.

To view a complete copy of Behm and Schneller’s article in Volume 7, Issue 1 of the Journal of Safety, Health and Environmental Research, please visit

Founded in 1911 and celebrating its centennial, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment.  Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, healthcare and education.  For more information, please go to and to view the new ASSE – A Century of Safety film go to







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