ASSE President Hill Addresses Impact of the Economy on Work Safety at Canadian Conference
Des Plaines, IL (September 16, 2010) — In his Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) conference address in Halifax, Nova Scotia, this week, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, of Southfield, MI, discussed the impact of the economic downturn on worker safety, the safety profession and why occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals are so committed to preventing injuries and illnesses at work, especially for the past 100 years. ASSE celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2011.
“Recently released U.S. fatal workplace statistics show that in 2009 workplace fatality rates went down in the U.S. from 2008 by about 17 percent — from 5,214 people dying from on-the-job injuries to 4,340 people,” Hill said at the CSSE annual professional development conference. “Many say it is partly because of the economic downturn. I’m sure the economy has had an impact on these numbers; in the U.S. we have about a 9.6 percent unemployment rate with thousands of others out of work for more than 10 months not even being counted. Some say that would put the unemployment rate at around 18 percent. But still, 12 people a day are dying from on-the-job injuries in the U.S. That is not good. We must continue to work to bring that number down to zero.”
Hill noted that now is not time for businesses to cut back on occupational safety and health systems for if they do it will come back to severely haunt them and the economy in the future in the guise of increased health care and workers comp costs, production delays, reputation distress and much, much more.
“But worse, the fatality, injury and illness rates could spiral upwards,” Hill noted. “In the U.S. and around the world not all businesses employ occupational safety, health and environmental professionals, those that can help them develop and implement effective workplace systems and programs. Those that do employ safety professionals have seen the positive results.
“For almost 100 years now the American Society of Safety Engineers and its members have been working on identifying risks and using the tools and knowledge that they have to develop and implement workplace safety systems and programs that prevent injuries and illnesses,” Hill said. “If we continue to see an investment in occupational safety and health systems and more people get back to work the fatality numbers will continue to decrease.”
Hill noted that today safety is a core part of the successful business strategy and without it we could go back to the time from 1906-1911 when 13,228 miners died in the U.S. or when 146 women and men died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NY City in 1911. The victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire were unable to escape because there was no safety system in place – most jumped from the 9th floor to the ground below or into the elevator shaft. The doors were locked and there were no sprinklers. ASSE was founded just months after this tragic fire, formalizing the occupational safety and health movement. Also, new workplace rules and regulations were developed and implemented throughout NY City and the U.S.
“Yes, the rates may be down in the U.S. and I thank the thousands of occupational safety, health and environmental professionals who keep the hundreds of millions of workers safe every day,” Hill noted. “However, I am very sad for the families and friends of those 4,340 people who never returned home in 2009 – a void is now there in that family, a void that will be there forever …and it’s not just a number.”
Hill noted that ASSE and its 32,000 members are looking forward to celebrating ASSE’s 100th anniversary – ‘A Century of Safety’ — looking back at safety through the decades and celebrating the positive contribution the occupational safety, health and environmental profession makes to everyone’s quality of life.
Hill noted one former regulator had told ASSE members recently, ‘Safety professionals leave a tremendous legacy. By putting safety systems in place and doing what they do, they’re assuring a safer workplace. That means there’s a reduction in injuries, illnesses and fatalities. It’s a tremendous legacy, but it is hard to quantify because you’ll usually never know about the injury, illness and fatality you prevented, but the legacy and the fact that you are helping your fellow man is a tremendous accomplishment.’
“As you know we still have a lot of work to do. Continuing our education through conferences, seminars, technical books, networking with thousands of our peers in all industries, hearing from experts at our chapter meetings, developing new standards and helping formulate legislation and regulation, we are on the right path for even safer times ahead in the next 100 years,” Hill said in his closing statement.
The September 12-15 CSSE professional development conference held in Nova Scotia featured speakers from across Canada and was titled Prevention: Global Vision; Local Practice. ASSE and CSSE members each year work together in supporting North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week which will be held May 1-7, 2011, and Occupational Safety and Health Professional Day May 4, 2011.
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE has more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members who 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 please go to www.asse.org/newsroom.