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November 11, 2004

Mr. Ken Brock, CSP
Chair, ASSEF

James D. Smith, CSP
Vice-President, Practices and Standards
RE: Research Topics - Suggested to the ASSE Foundation

Dr. Mr. Brock:

As the Vice-President of the Council on Practices and Standards (CoPS) I have the privilege of working with the Business of Safety Committee (BoSC). The BoSC has representation from the various Practice Specialties and provides a broad and diverse background well-seasoned with experienced and successful SH&E professionals. Mr. Mark Hansen, former President of ASSE from 2002-2003, currently chairs the BoSC. The CoPS Business of Safety Committee is a data gathering, document preparation, and source of professional information regarding ASSE's efforts to show that investment in Safety, Health, and the Environment (SH&E) is a sound business strategy and can positively impact an organization's bottomline. We believe this is a key issue to grow and enhance the future of the SH&E profession. For more information see the link to the BoSC website below:

The BoSC has been meeting on a regular basis and as a result of several discussions has reached consensus to suggest several ideas to the ASSEF as topics worthy of research initiatives. These ideas have been reviewed and approved by CoPS. It is my privilege to submit these topics for your review and insight:

Issue #1

Organizations are increasingly utilizing SH&E (or Sustainability) Annual Reports to describe metrics as part of being a socially responsible company. Many companies have developed Annual Reports in part to address Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, while others are truly SH&E visionaries. The question for research is why do companies develop SH&E Annual reports? Who is their customer (internal and external)? Do investment advisors evaluate these reports? What criteria do they evaluate? Are these reports useful to them? Are there legal disclosure issues for such reports and therefore may or may not indicate the true status?

The BoSC believes that we (SH&E professionals) need to make the business case within these reports. We suspect, since we have not seen any supporting data or evidence, that these reports are not currently being utilized in making business decisions. Herein lies the problem; these reports could simply be activities that make folks feel good, but are separate from the business decisions that drive operating action within companies. Our work is to make the case to the investment community, socially responsible investors, and the general public that SH&E is good business sense. If they drive it, our profession benefits, and so does the risk reduction effort nationally.

Issue #2

We consistently have heard the view that safety professionals spend too much time talking to ourselves. Our work is not convincing each other that safety is good business; our work is connecting with senior-level executives and the investment community. They (senior business leaders) can help us focus on SH&E from a business standpoint. An interesting research project would be to capture data and anecdotal information indicating how much occupational safety, health, and environmental information is actually published in executive level business magazines and publications. We (SH&E professionals) appear to believe that these business leaders do not see such information, and as a result have poor knowledge if our goals and mission. However, we have no data or evidence to actually support this view. Perhaps these business leaders have seen much more than we have and our assumptions are based more on ignorance than data and fact.

Issue #3

Claims continue to be made that there is increasing synergy between SH&E functions. However, some of the most current data we have seen indicates that this is not necessarily true. From a career perspective an interesting research project would be to look at this issue. Is there the ability to move seamlessly between SH&E functions in regards to a career path and is this actually taking place?

Issue #4

One of the other issues we continue to hear a great deal about is that of aging workers. As Vice-President of the Council on Practices and Standards (CoPS), let me take an opportunity to attest to the interest that this topic has generated within our Council. The issue of aging workers has been raised by our Council on a number of instances, and has generated articles in our newsletters. The Council's Business of Safety Committee (BoSC) has also been researching the issue and has reached consensus that the SH&E implications facing aging workers needs more quality research.

Supporting the Foundation's research efforts is specifically mentioned in our Council's strategic plan since it will help move the SH&E Body of Knowledge forward and can only enhance SH&E as a profession both within the Society and the public at large. Let me conclude this letter by indicating that our Council is strongly in favor of supporting these research suggestions and hopes they will be reviewed in a positive fashion. We look forward to working closely with the ASSEF in these matters.

Respectfully and Cordially Submitted,

James D. Smith, CSP
Vice-President, Practices and Standards

Copy To:
T. Bresnahan, Chair ASSEF Research Committee
Members and Staff, CoPS
F. Fortman, Executive Director ASSE
M. Goranson, Staff ASSEF