ASSE President Testifies At Congressional Hearing On OSHA
Des Plaines, IL (April 28, 2009) — American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, of Dearborn, Ohio, testified on the strides the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made over the years, its positive impact and issues it faces at today’s Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Policy Committee Congressional hearing on Introducing Meaningful Incentives for Safe Workplaces.
“I appreciate this opportunity to share the perspective of safety and health professionals I believe can help inform this Subcommittee as it considers OSHA reform legislation. Employers have much to say about their responsibility for safety. Workers – especially those victimized by failure to make a workplace safe – have much to offer this Subcommittee,” Brown testified. “Safety and health professionals, however, are responsible for working with both management and workers to get safety and health done. We see the challenges employers face in managing safety and the challenges workers face in trying to work safe. We know well the risks workers and employers face when those challenges are not met.”
Brown stated that a strong, effective OSHA is necessary to this nation’s commitment to safety. Some changes are necessary, he said, but cautioned against wholesale changes that will diminish OSHA’s capability to be the nation’s leader in occupational safety and health.
“There is little doubt among this nation’s leading employers that a commitment to effective safety and health programs provides U.S. business with a competitive advantage,” Brown said. “It is especially important in today’s harsh economic times that we need a vocal leader, such as OSHA, to help convince companies that the last place cuts should be made is in their safety and health programs.”
The 2007 Workplace Safety Cost Index found workplace injuries cost society $48.3 billion in direct losses, and the indirect costs of injuries may be 20 times the direct costs. Conversely, a Liberty Mutual survey reported that 61 percent of executives say $3 or more is saved for each $1 invested in workplace safety.
“We ask a lot of OSHA. It has a tough job and is an easy target for complaint. But any changes in OSHA must go beyond simple solutions,” Brown said. “Some complain OSHA misses hazards in inspections, but OSHA’s website indicates just how many standards and guidance documents its inspectors must know. So better training is an issue, too. Some complain OSHA negotiates fines away. But OSHA’s front-line staff is forced to balance further legal action against a company willing to address the problem and wanting to move on to other complaints. Some complain OSHA does not issue enough standards. But overlooked is just how the existing standards pose a challenge to employers, employees, safety and health professionals, and even OSHA in adequately enforcing those standards. “
Brown noted at the end of his testimony, “Be careful. There are no easy answers.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 32,000 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 complete copy of the testimony please go to www.asse.org.