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ASSE Opposes Administration’s Proposal to Cut Effective NIOSH Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing Programs, Ed. Research Centers

Posted in on Tue, Apr 5, 2011

For Immediate Release                                                         Contact:   Diane Hurns, 847-768-3413, dhurns@asse.org     

DES PLAINES, IL (April 5, 2011) – In a letter to Senator Thomas Harkin (IA), chairman of the subcommittee on labor, health & human services,  education and related agencies, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed strong opposition to the proposed elimination of support for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AFF) programs and Educational Research Centers (ERCs) in the administration’s proposed budget for FY 2012.  ASSE said these NIOSH programs directly help the U.S. confront the unacceptable costs of lost lives from work-related injuries, both in lives and dollars that come from deaths, injuries and illnesses in U.S. workplaces.

ASSE noted that a recent landmark NIOSH study found that between 1992 and 2002, the deaths of 64,333 workers in the U. S. resulted in $53 billion in societal costs. 

“This nation continues to struggle economically,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, said.  “But this proposal to eliminate two programs that directly help save lives and reduce costs is unacceptable. These programs are a vitally important investment in continuing to help employers and our members, safety, health and environmental professionals be competitive in an increasingly challenging difficult world marketplace.”   

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of fatalities and injuries consistently show that the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are among the most dangerous industries for workers.  ASSE noted that the NIOSH AFF program is the most significant federal initiative today that seeks to secure a safe workplace for agricultural workers.  NIOSH and its partners in the agriculture, forestry and fishing areas are continuously working on projects in areas such as pesticide exposure, agricultural surveillance, “smart clothing” for loggers and forest workers, and improving vessel stability. All of which are considered high priority areas. An example of how important AFF is the fact that the American farmer is eight times more likely to die on the job than the average U. S. worker.  After a fatality happens, seven out of 10 farms go out of business.  Eliminating the AFF program will also end NIOSH’s rollover protective structure (ROPS) tractor retrofit program supported and advocated by ASSE members.  The ROPS program has helped thousands of farmers recently increase safety on their farms.

ASSE also opposes the proposed elimination of support for the NIOSH Educational Resource Centers (ERCs) in the FY 2012 budget proposal.  The ERCs provide resources to educate and train occupational safety and health professionals in areas of industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine, and occupational safety, plus specialized areas relevant to the occupational safety and health field.  Employers rely on occupational safety and health professionals to help them prevent employee injuries and illness as well as avoiding the costs associated with such losses.  Many ASSE members have received their training through ERC. 

“As the budget battle continues, we urge you to listen to our 33,000 members who work with employers to protect workers and workplaces day in and day out,” Hill said. “They are on the front lines and see no justification for cutting NIOSH programs that help employees, employers and Americans.”

Founded in 1911 and celebrating its 100th anniversary, 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 33,000 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, health care and education. For more information and a full copy of the letter please go to www.asse.org.

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