ASSE is concerned with Y2K amd automated safety systems

ASSE Des Plaines Illinois 1/20/99: On 12/18/98, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) had the opportunity to participate in a symposium addressing the Year 2000 computer concern and its potential impact on safety and health in the chemical industry. The meeting was hosted by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB). The representative for ASSE at the meeting was Mr. Thomas Lawrence who is a professional engineer and certified safety professional. Mr. Lawrence is also the Society nominee for an appointment to the CSB. After attending the meeting, providing ASSE insight, and listening to a wide range of chemical safety experts, it is clear to the Society that the Y2K issue is of significance to this country's safety and health professionals. 1998-1999 ASSE President Fred Fleming made the following statement:

ASSE is very impressed with the work of the CSB. This is specifically the type of technical information needed to safe guard people, property, and the environment. The CSB has made an effort to address a critically important issue, and ASSE is dedicated to working on a partnership basis with all such federal and state agencies to create a sense of private and public sector partnership. Such an approach is good public policy and helps ensure that this country pursues initiatives which are based on good science and sound technology. We urge ongoing support of the CSB by safety and health professionals.

The intent of ASSE is not to scare the American public, however, there is little doubt that this issue is of significance since it addresses not only the safety and health of employees, but also the safety and health of the public at large. ASSE perceives the issue of Y2K impact on safety and health as not being given the attention that is due such an important factor in the efficient and effective operation and maintenance of the country's commercial, industrial, government, and military enterprises. As an example, during our research for this symposium, we were stunned to find only six sites on the Internet addressing Y2K impact on automated safety systems, and three of these were in other countries, but ASSE could not even begin to count the number of sites dedicated to the Y2K issue overall. We acknowledge that federal agencies such as CSB and OSHA have been proactive on Y2K. However, are concerned that such little world-wide attention is being given to Y2K safety issues as compared to other business operations. The Society also stresses that the Y2K safety and health issue, while potentially catastrophic in the chemical industry, can have significant, if not equal impact in every other industry.

ASSE is taking this opportunity to stress to the nation and the entire world that the safety and health of employees and the general public should be paramount. It is crucial that testing of automated safety systems be conducted in a responsible and proactive manner to ensure that the integrity of the system is maintained and that people are not needlessly exposed to risk. To this end, the American Society of Safety Engineers calls upon its members, all safety and health professionals, and industry leaders on a world-wide basis to take the following actions:

  1. Proactively review an organization's operations to identify automated/computerized systems which impact safety and health.

  2. Conduct a technical evaluation of such components to ensure that a shutdown due to Y2K would not create the potential of a chemical release.

  3. Test such systems in a proactive and responsible manner to ensure there is not the potential of a chemical release.

  4. Institute corrective action to guard against chemical releases.

The American Society of Safety Engineers was founded in 1911, and now with almost 33,000 members is the world's oldest and largest society of professionals dedicated to the protection of people, property, and the environment. Please contact ASSE at 847/699-2929 if you should have any questions addressing this press release.

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