OF SAFETY ENGINEERS
1800 East Oakton Street
October 29, 2002
OSHA Docket Office
VIA E-MAIL: http://ecomments.osha.gov
RE: Docket No. GE2002-1
Dear Assistant Secretary Henshaw:
On behalf of its 30,000 safety, health and environmental professional members, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) takes this opportunity to commend the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for taking a significant step forward in addressing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace through its Guidelines for Nursing Homes.
As we have communicated to Congress recently, ASSE supports the establishment of a performance-based federal ergonomics standard. ASSE has offered the existing California ergonomics standard as a feasible performance-based model of ASSE's policy position on the issue. What is most significant about the California approach is that it would require workplaces to address demonstrable risks and encourage employers, employees and government safety agencies to share information to develop solutions tailored to the individual problems at a workplace.
In that respect, the Guidelines for Nursing Homes is a significant first step in providing the kind of information employers and employees need in order to work together to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. The Guidelines for Nursing Homes are a well-organized wealth of information on preventing injuries in an industry where, as the Guidelines indicate, workers are twice as likely to be injured than in other workplaces. As the Guidelines also point out, there are enlightened industry leaders who have or will make the investments suggested and reap financial benefits. If the Guidelines increase the population of proactive employers worker safety will be enhanced.
It may prove necessary for OSHA, the nursing home industry and others with similar interests in worker safety to take a variety of additional steps beyond these Guidelines:
Finally, the Guidelines, though an excellent resource, are not a substitute for a federal ergonomics standard that could more definitively affirm the responsibility of employers to integrate ergonomics into their management systems. Our support for a new ergonomics standard, however, does not take away from ASSE's full support for OSHA's efforts in developing and disseminating the Guidelines. Our members play a vitally important role in linking OSHA's efforts to the worksite. ASSE and its members look forward to working with OSHA to make sure that the information in these Guidelines and the other industry-specific guidelines to follow are readily available both to employers and to employees and are used to make workplaces safer and healthier.
Mark D. Hansen, PE, CSP
THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT FOR SAFETY, HEALTH, AND
ENVIRONMENTAL (SH&E) MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS
The ASSE Council on Practices and Standards is structured to provide balanced and sound assessment of matters related to the effectiveness and efficiency of the standards of practice in the safety profession. The Council consulted with many organizations, entities, and governmental agencies while developing this report and white paper, however, it has not been reviewed for approval by any other entity than ASSE. The contents of this report, and its recommendations, do not represent the views of any other organization other than ASSE. The mention of trade names, companies, or commercial products does not constitute any recommendation or endorsement for use.
The information and materials contained in this publication have been developed from sources believed to be reliable. However, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) accepts no legal responsibility for the correctness or completeness of this material or its application to specific factual situations. By publication of this paper, ASSE does not ensure that adherence to these recommendations will protect the safety or health of any persons, or preserve property.
The implementation, maintenance, and improvement of SH&E programs are of significant importance to this country as the economy of the United States moves toward more of a global perspective. Such programs positively impact all Americans and specifically those who work at all levels of the public and private sectors in technology development, manufacturing, training, financial analysis, personnel, academia as well as the final end user. An effective SH&E Program not only benefits and protects the organizations implementing such a program, but also furthers the interests of the United States in a globally competitive environment.
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) knows
from data and anecdotal information that investment in a SH&E program
is a sound business strategy, for any organization regardless of size,
and will lead to having a positive impact on the financial bottom line.
ASSE calls on governmental agencies such as Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and
the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), etc
to do more in regard to showing that SH&E management is more than
simple compliance. The private and public sector should be encouraged
to work together to show American business and industry that SH&E
is not only required under the law, but should become and remain a core
RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI) FOR SAFETY,
The key question asked of many SH&E Professionals by financial planners in business and industry is: Do safety and health management programs improve a company's bottom line? The answer is a resounding "YES", although benefits may be somewhat hard to quantify. But in addition to outright savings on worker's compensation benefit claims, civil liability damages1, and litigation expenses, having a solid safety and health management program with senior management commitment will improve productivity and employee morale. It can also make the difference between winning and losing bids and even government contracts.
1. Negligent or willful injury and wrongful death suits can be brought where contractors or worksite visitors may be involved, as well as under certain state laws (Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio are some examples), which permit employees or their survivors to sue employers in tort where egregious or intentional behavior, or ultra-hazardous activities are involved.
ASSE has taken the position that the days are over when companies can view safety and health violations as the status quo, and regard SH&E violations and the attendant civil penalties as another "cost of doing business." For one thing, penalties have been increasing in dollar amount. In addition, knowing violations that result in the death or serious injury of a worker may be prosecuted at the state level under criminal laws, or in a referral by a government agency to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Hidden Costs of Failed Safety and Health Systems
Anyone who has had the misfortune of witnessing or handling the aftermath of a serious or fatal on-the-job injury knows that, without question, the costs go far beyond those that appear in a company's ledger book. For those who survive, or who work with the accident or illness victim, the costs continue with psychological stress that may require years of counseling. Many times, co-workers who witness a serious event find themselves unable to return to the worksite for a significant period of time, which presents additional costs to the company through the abrupt loss of skilled workers. A plant with a singularly bad reputation for safety and health may find itself unable to attract workers at all or may have to pay wages well above market value to do so. These are just a few of the "hidden" costs of a poor safety and health program.
Moreover, as more information concerning a company's compliance and injury/illness experience becomes publicly available over the Internet and from the federal agencies through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, foes of industrial growth may use this data to defeat permit applications or zoning change requests. Part of being a "good corporate citizen" - rather than a company that no one wants in their backyard - is offering a safe and healthful work environment to the local residents.
Companies may also "externalize" costs associated with workplace injuries or illnesses, to the detriment of their safety and health program management. If some other organization (such as worker's compensation, social security, welfare or other insurance) pays the costs, corporate management may have a disincentive to control hazards. ASSE believes here is an excellent example of being "penny wise and pound foolish."
When insurance pays for the immediate costs of employee injuries, ultimately we will all pay either in the form of higher premiums, inability to obtain insurance completely, or passed-through costs to the consumer. Conversely, when there are fewer accidents, society saves as a whole. Fewer hospitals, medical professionals and rehabilitation facilities will be needed, and employee productive capacity will not be reduced as a result of occupational injury, disease, and death.
The current Secretary of the Treasury, Paul O'Neill, who also served as the long-time chairman of Alcoa Steel Corporation, has taken the position that investment in safety, health, and the environment is good for the economy, country, the firm, and its workers. Part of his company's (Alcoa) key business strategy included emphasis on occupational safety, health, and environmental management. His belief is that investment in SH&E makes sounds business sense and should be a cornerstone of an organization's goals and objectives. During his nomination, appointment, and confirmation as Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. O'Neill consistently spoke in favor of ongoing investment in SH&E as positive generator for organizations2 .
Some statistics and examples to consider when reviewing the "Economics of Safety"3 :
2. Based upon a speech given by then Alcoa Chairman Paul O'Neill to the Council for Excellence in Government on May 10, 1999 titled: Excellence in Government-How do We Get It?
3. From an article titled: Do You Know How Much Accidents Are Really Cutting Your Business?, Lee Smith Colorado State University Health&Safety Consultation Program, 1996.
* bottle and sell 61,000 cans of soda
SH&E Investment as a Core Business Strategy
In recent years, encouraging senior management commitment to safety and health program management has become a priority for federal and state agencies involved with safety regulation and enforcement. A survey of employers indicates that the Top Ten motivations for taking actions were:
(1) Cost of workers' compensation insurance (59 percent);
Survey by the National Federation of Independent Business, Motivating
Safety in the Workplace (June 1995).
From the article: Measuring Safety's Return on Investment, Susan Jervis and Terry R. Collins, ASSE Professional Safety Journal, September 2001.
The original OSHA effort to encourage use of safety and health management programs was the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) initiative, established in 1982, was restructured in 1996 and is still in effect. The VPP emphasizes the importance of worksite safety and health programs in meeting the goals of the OSH Act, and provides official recognition of excellent safety and health programs, assistance to employers in their efforts, and the benefits of a cooperative approach among labor, management, and government to resolve potential safety and health problems. Recognition in the VPP requires rigorous attention to workplace safety by all personnel. Sites are approved based on their written safety and health program and their overall performance in meeting the standards set by the program.
The VPP is comprised of program elements that have been demonstrated to reduce the incidence and severity of workplace injuries and illnesses.
VPP participation is strictly voluntary and OSHA keeps application information confidential. Participating employers must still comply with OSHA standards, but they are exempt from programmed OSHA inspections (although not from those prompted by employee complaints or triggered by fatalities, catastrophes or significant leaks and spills). OSHA claims the following ROI for companies participating in VPP 7:
7. Taken from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publication, The Benefits of Participating in VPP, 2001
Additionally, OSHA has received considerable information on improvements in morale, productivity, and product quality. Although anecdotal in nature, these improvements are referred to frequently enough by participants in the VPP to indicate that there is a good possibility of a direct relationship between improved management of safety and health protection and these benefits.
OSHA E-Cat Initiatives
OSHA recently unveiled its "e-CAT" initiative, which pushes implementation of a safety culture at every level of an organization. The multi-faceted program has four components: (1) Management System and Safety/Health Integration; (2) Safety and Health Checkups; (3) Creating Change; and (4) Safety and Health Payoffs.
OSHA's e-CAT program consists of electronic Compliance Assistance Tools ("CATs") that provide guidance information for employers to develop a comprehensive safety and health program. Such programs are required by some states, although there is currently no such federal OSHA requirement.
OSHA's safety and health program management rule is under development, and its future will depend on the regulatory priorities of any Administration. The draft rule, released in October 1998, would have covered all general industry employers and applied to hazards covered by the General Duty Clause and existing OSHA standards. The proposal set forth the following core elements:
· Management leadership and employee participation (hold managers accountable for carrying out safety and health responsibilities in the workplace and provide them with the authority to do so; and, provide employees with the opportunity to participate in establishing, implementing and evaluating the program);
Existing programs would be grandfathered as long as they satisfied the basic obligation for each core element and the employer could demonstrate the effectiveness of its program. The rule would also require employers at multi worksites to provide information about hazards, controls, safety and health rules and emergency procedures for all workers. ASSE commented extensively about this rule in regard to its technical applications, however, the Society remain steadfast in its belief that more needs to be done to encourage the development and implementation of SH&E programs.
Finally, OSHA has the "SHARP" program (Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program), which provides incentives and support to develop, implement and improve effective safety and health programs. Participating employers may be exempted from OSHA programmed inspections for a period of one year. All consultation and visits are conducted at employer request. Typical participants are smaller high-hazard businesses (e.g., with fewer than 250 employees) that do not have serious safety and health problems. Participants undergo a comprehensive site visit and agree to correct all identified safety and health hazards.
Even where not mandated by law, SH&E management programs
are critical to the safety, health, and environmental performance of an
industrial employer. Companies that are truly committed to excellence
should consider participation in the VPP or the other consultation and
professional development programs offered by OSHA or through professional
safety organizations such as ASSE.
At the state level, Oklahoma last year was lauded for its "Safety Pays" program, which offers employers assistance in developing management programs that identify and eliminate workplace hazards and ensure compliance with OSHA regulations. Nine employers were among those receiving the state's Awards of Excellence" and it was noted that the employers had zero lost-time accidents while reducing worker's compensation insurance costs from 47 to 97 percent.
Similar savings were noted in Alberta, Canada, where the Worker's Compensation Board announced last year that over $2 million in premium refunds would be distributed to more than 400 employers who registered in the "Partners in Injury Reduction" (PIR) program. Other PIR program benefits included lower worker's comp premiums, increased worker productivity and minimized accident costs. The average lost-time claim rate at PIR participant worksites dropped more than 20 percent.
Private Sector Initiatives
At the private sector level, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) instituted the "Quest for the Best in Safety and Health" program in 1993 to help its members identify strategies for continuous improvements in safety and health. Approximately 50 companies participated and had impressive results. At one company, Springs Industries, 45 percent of its plants worked 1 million manhours or more without a single lost-time accident - and some exceeded 10 million manhours. What was the secret of their success? The following elements were responsible for a 25 percent decrease in overall injuries in the program's first year:
It has become generally accepted and understood that there is a significant and growing correlation between industrial companies' investment in their environmental programs and their overall competitiveness and financial performance. For example, Innovest Strategic Value Advisors has consistently reported that some researchers claim that the "sustainability premium" can regularly exceed 200 basis points annually for broadly diversified portfolios. There have even been instances where it can surpass 500 in sectors with a particularly acute risk exposure 8.
Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, in an annual investment research report on the Global Auto Parts market, reported that its results indicated that firms investing in environmental management posted accumulated returns over 48.8% higher than environmental laggards over a 3-year period, and 6% higher returns over 1-year. The report further indicated that Denso Corporation and Snap-On Tools emerged as the top ranked companies in this annual survey, which assessed the performance of 18 of the world's leading automotive parts and supply companies in areas such as environmental management, resource usage, climate change, product life cycle analysis and sustainability-related profit opportunities in new markets 9.
Based upon a study conducted by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, New
York, NY, 2001.
In addition, a subsequent study of the electric utility industry, found that portfolio managers who screen out companies with poor environmental records can outperform others by more than 7% annually. Finally, a news report shows that the top environmental performers in the computer sector have outperformed their industry rivals financially by 25% since the beginning of 1998. The report, The Computer Industry -- Hidden Risks and Value Potential for Strategic Investors, calls into question the view of the environment as a cost center and presents evidence linking superior environmental performance with competitiveness and profitability. Citing Dell Computer Corp. as one example, the report says the company's energy-efficiency initiatives already have generated cost savings of 37% 10.
Value of Company/Organizational Reputation 11
It has long been recognized that a Company's reputation is of significant value in generating a favorable ROI. For example, a company or organization will benefit from a favorable reputation by becoming the first choice of customers, investors, suppliers, and employees. A favorable reputation with customers creates a degree of brand equity with them that enhances loyalty, encourages repeat sales, and grows revenues. Similarly, a favorable reputation with employees can help attract better employees, spur productivity, and enhance profitability. Comparing book values with market valuations suggests that the intangible assets of public companies in the US and the UK constitute on average some 55 per cent of their market valuations - a proportion that has grown steadily over the past 40 years. These intangibles are made up of intellectual capital such as patents and reputational capital (the strength of the company's stakeholder relationships).
Based upon a study conducted by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, New
York, NY, 2001.
Workplace injuries and illnesses are costly in financial and human terms. More than $40 billion is paid each year by employers and their insurers in worker's compensation benefits, or nearly $500 per covered employee. This figure is simply unacceptable. The data and citations referenced throughout this paper support the ASSE finding that there is a direct positive correlation between investment in SH&E and its subsequent ROI. Ultimately, company executives must recognize that they have a duty to provide a safe and healthful workplace to those who work for the company or visit the worksite. It is unethical to risk someone's life and health in order to save money. A sound safety and health management program can help companies fulfill their moral obligation.
Related ASSE Position Papers
to go back to the ASSE Federal Statements and Testimony page.