ASSE Comments on New U.S. Fatal Occupational Injuries Report
Des Plaines, IL (August 20, 2009) — In light of today’s release of the preliminary annual fatal occupational figures for 2008 by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, of St. Louis, MO, offered his condolences to the families, friends and co-workers of the 5,071 people who died from job-related injuries. Patton also urged businesses, despite the economic downturn, to continue to invest in workplace safety programs now to reduce the number of these tragic losses.
“Our members – occupational safety, health and environmental professionals in all industries – work day in and day out to ensure that the millions of people who go to work every day leave work injury and illness free and return home safely,” Patton said. “We urge all businesses to join us as we continue to identify risks at all workplaces, and develop and implement safety systems aimed at preventing workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. It also pays to invest in workplace safety when it comes to health costs. The safer a workplace is the less chance a worker will be injured or suffer an illness.
“We are also very saddened by the alarming number of workplace suicides which were up by 28 percent,” Patton said. “Although overall the rate of fatal workplace injuries is down, still 5,071 people lost their lives from on-the-job injuries, and this is a major loss.
“Many already know that it is good business to protect people in the workplace,” Patton noted. Preventing work-related injuries and illnesses cost far less than correcting them.”
“Companies that invest consistently in safety realize positive bottom line results, reduced absenteeism, lower turnover rates, higher productivity, increased employee morale and a positive brand image. As illnesses, injuries and fatalities decline so too do health care and workers compensation costs,” Patton said. “And intangibly, the relatives, friends and co-workers of those who died or were gravely injured from on-the-job incidents, will probably never overcome the grief of losing a loved one.”
Studies have shown that the indirect cost of a workplace injury can be up to 10 times that of the direct costs. For every $1 invested in an effective workplace safety program, $4 to $6 may be saved as illnesses, injuries and fatalities decline. Indirect costs include: training and compensating replacement workers; repairing damaged property; accident investigation and implementation of corrective actions; scheduling delays and lost productivity; administrative expenses; low employee morale and increased absenteeism; and, poor customer and community relations.
Recently, the Insurance Information Institute (III) noted that the average cost for workers’ compensation insurance – the insurance that provides for the cost of medical care and rehabilitation for injured workers, and, lost wages and death benefits for the dependents of persons killed in work-related accidents – had risen 50 percent in just three years. According to the III over the last decade the average medical cost per claim has nearly doubled. Effective work safety and health programs can address this issue.
“A sound safety and health management process can help companies protect people, maintain compliance and contribute positively to a businesses’ bottom line,” Patton said. “This can result in a safer workplace for all.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its 32,000 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 or to www.bls.gov for the 2008 fatal occupational figures.