ASSE Urges Employers, Employees To Do More To Prevent Work Injuries On This International Workers Memorial Day
Des Plaines, IL (April 28, 2010) — American Society of Safety Engineers President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, noted today, “On the observance of today’s International Workers Memorial Day we take this time to remember those who have lost their lives from on-the-job injuries and the millions more who have been injured or sustained illnesses on the job. We also reflect on how we, occupational safety, health and environmental professionals, continue to work to make sure everyone who goes to work returns home injury and illness free to their families every night. Our members assess hazards and risk with employers and workers to assure everyone has the right to make a living without impacting their safety and health.”
International Workers Memorial Day recognizes those workers who have died or sustained work-related injuries or illnesses during the previous year. According to the International Labour Organization, each year more than two million men and women die from work-related incidents and diseases worldwide, 270 million more are involved in work-related accidents, and another 160 million suffer from work-related illnesses.
“Safety and health practitioners around the world have made great strides in efforts to protect workers, but we have more to do. We ask businesses, employers and employees around the world to adopt safety as part of their core company value,” Patton said. “Not only adopt it as a core value, but to develop and implement occupational safety programs and systems that work – to protect workers, their families, communities and their bottom line as well as their business reputation.
“No one can put a price on a person’s life and today too many families are grieving for the loved ones they lost last year. They will not be forgotten,” Patton said. “As safety and health professionals we know well the pain that can cause. We also know the major positive benefits to a company, its employees and its reputation that effective occupational safety, health and environmental programs provide.”
As ASSE heads into its 100th anniversary, officials note that workplaces are safer today than they were in 1911. For instance, between the years of 1906 and 1911, 13,228 miners were killed in U.S. coal mines. In 1911, 146 women and men died tragically, many of them jumping to their death from the 8th floor to escape the fire, during a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City due to locked exits and inadequate fire extinguishing systems.
The first Workers Memorial Day was observed in 1989. April 28 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the day of a similar remembrance in Canada. Every year, people in hundreds of communities and at worksites recognize workers who have been killed or injured on the job.
Next week ASSE celebrates North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week and Occupational Safety and Health Professional Day on May 5. “A day we say thank you to those occupational safety, health and environmental professionals who are committed to protecting people, property and the environment worldwide,” Patton said.
“We know that due to the efforts of many people, about 300 million people go to and return home safely from work every day in the U.S.,” Patton said. “But we need to do more. Just a few weeks ago a mine explosion took the lives of 29 miners in West Virginia and more workers were killed in an explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.”
On-the-job fatality rates in the U.S. have been going down, yet many fatalities are still occurring at workplaces that don’t value safety, that don’t look at risks and solutions, that don’t turn to SH&E professionals for the needed input and guidance to help make their workplace a safe one. Recent U.S. statistics show fatal work injuries in the private construction sector in 2008 declined by 20 percent; fatal workplace falls declined by 20 percent; transportation incidents, still the number one cause of on-the-job fatalities accounted for approximately two-fifths of all the workplace fatalities in 2008, fell 13 percent; however, workplace suicides were up by 28 percent in 2008; the number and rate of fatal work injuries among 16 to 17 year-old workers was higher; and, the number of fatal workplace injuries in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations rose six percent.
“During this day of remembrance we also urge businesses not to cut back on safety during this economic downturn,” Patton said. “In the long run, companies will not save money by reducing or ignoring safety for their workers, customers, and communities they do business in. Money cut from safety processes now will have an enormous cost later — from injury and health care costs, fines, contingency situations, lost production time, low employee morale, employee injuries and even fatalities. There are better and smarter ways to protect employees, business and the bottom line.”
Last year, the state of Oregon was able to realize for 700 of its businesses participating in a state workers’ compensation program a $15 million retrospective return based on the combined efforts of employers, employees, occupational safety and health professionals and state insurance professionals working together to make the state a safer place to work and live. They said attention to safety pays great dividends, regardless of the state of the economy.
“We remember those workers who lost their lives and the families they leave behind,” Patton said. “We are working to make that number zero worldwide.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It has more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members. For more information please go to www.asse.org or to www.asse.org/naosh10.