Economy’s Impact on Safety Profession Topic of ASSE President’s Talk to OK Students
Des Plaines, IL (November 10, 2008) — American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHM, told occupational safety and health students from Oklahoma State University and the surrounding area today that the economy may be down, but it is an opportune time to reiterate the fact that investing in safety pays and contributes positively not only to a great working environment, but to a business’ bottom line.
“It is a new day. Today we are faced with a worldwide financial crisis, a new administration, a 24/7 news delivery system, an always changing global marketplace—one where we need to stay abreast of all workplace safety issues and standards worldwide,” Brown said. “And last week’s government report on the economy showed a 240,000 decline in nonfarm payroll employment and a U.S. unemployment rate of 6.5 percent. Although we are seeing major employment declines in most industries, the health care and mining industry are actually adding jobs.
“How does all of this affect you?” Brown asked. “As safety and health professionals it is not only our job to protect people, property and the environment, but we need to actively convince corporate that investing in safety is always good business. I’ll outline some supporting information and at the same time urge you, as part of your curriculum, to take business and financial courses to help you work within the parameters of corporate governance and understand the positive impact effective workplace safety and health systems have on the bottom line.”
Brown noted businesses spend about $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and pay almost $1 billion every week to injured employees and their medical providers.
“What’s more, a company’s reputation is at risk should a disaster or incident occur,” Brown continued. “Does anyone remember Enron or Arthur Andersen? A recent 11-country PR firm survey on corporate reputation found that 63 percent of a company’s market value is attributable to reputation. The consequences of a damaged reputation run far and deep.”
Brown continued to state that occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professionals help keep a company’s reputation in tack and look to sustain its positive reputation through their work in keeping people safe. Employers face a damaged reputation and brand when employees are injured, especially if the incidents are preventable.
“You will find that our role continues to garner corporate respect and build value. Yet, we need you to help remind business of the value of the safety professional in not only saving lives and preventing injuries, but also in contributing positively to their bottom line and keeping their positive reputation in place,” Brown noted. “Business success and sustainability have become increasingly dependent on reputation and we, as safety professionals, have a direct impact on that.”
Safety, or lack of, not only impacts a company’s reputation, but their profits as well, Brown continued A recent Goldman Sachs study in Australia showed valuation links between workplace safety and health factors and investment performance. It found that companies who did not adequately manage workplace safety issues underperformed those that did and that workplace safety and health factors have potentially greater effectiveness at identifying underperforming stocks, Brown noted.
Currently, ASSE has seen a steady demand for SH&E professionals. As for the state of ASSE student members Brown noted a recent ASSE Foundation survey of 154 scholarship recipients found the majority are working in the SH&E field in all industries. They are working in manufacturing, technology, construction, energy, health, insurance and for non-profits including companies such as ConocoPhillips, Disney, Sarah Lee, Menasha Packaging Company, Chevron, Aon, BP, Kraft, American Airlines and many more.
“The future is bright for ASSE student members,” Brown continued. “You can go anywhere and work in any industry with the education and training you are now receiving and through ASSE professional development programs.”
To assist students as they move out of school into a full-time position he noted the ASSE survey also found the scholarship students faced many challenges. These challenges included gaining buy-in to their ideas at work; overcoming a learning curve; training; overcoming the ‘new kid’ syndrome; and, continuing on-the-job learning.
However, the good outweighed the challenges Brown noted. The survey also found that due to their ASSE affiliation these students said they had increased credibility with employers and peers; an enhanced “positive reputation” when applying to graduate schools; increased knowledge from ASSE members through mentoring and networking providing them with greater first-hand experience; and, helping them get a foot in the door.
Today we are all facing a challenging economy and workplace,” Brown said. “Tomorrow will be challenging, however, when you stop to think that every day our profession saves hundreds of lives by preventing incidents from happening and protects millions of people from getting injured, is extremely rewarding. You all make a difference every day and we thank you.”
Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest and largest 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 manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For a full copy of the speech go to ASSE’s website at www.asse.org