As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.
Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.
|2006-2007 ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP|
The new year is a time to take stock of what we've achieved, set expectations for the coming year and survey the challenges that lie ahead. As I think about the coming year and beyond for the SH&E profession, several areas come to mind. These are just a few of the many areas I believe we must keep in our sights.
Workplace injuries and illnesses in private industry declined for the third straight year in 2005-in fact, the overall rate reached all all-time low. This continued improvement is certainly encouraging, but we cannot become complacent. We must keep our focus on creating the safest work environments possible, and we must press the mindset that one injury, one illness or one fatality is one too many.
The recent midterm elections shifted the balance of power in Congress. What this shift will mean for the SH&E profession remains to be seen. "The bet is that the fires under occupational safety and health will get stoked," says Dave Heidorn, ASSE's manager of government affairs and policy. Key issues likely will include mine safety, increasing OSHA fines and NIOSH funding.
The labor force continues to age. BLS estimates that the 55-and-older group will grow at an annual rate of 4.1%-4 times that of the overall labor force. By 2014, this group is expected to make up 21.2% of the labor force. Employers and SH&E professionals must recognize these changing workforce dynamics and adapt current strategies and initiatives to meet the challenges they present. And, like the entire workforce, our profession is graying. As more SH&E practitioners begin to retire, we must dedicate ourselves to recruiting students to safety-related careers and to mentoring our young professionals.
The lack of such programs is a growing concern. As ASSE President-Elect Mike Thompson testified at a town hall meeting with NIOSH last March, "The safety community is faced with a retirement challenge among those who achieved Ph.D.s in safety . . . in the 1970s. With only one pure Ph.D. program in safety, the circumstances for the future of safety education may be dire." For our profession to continue to thrive, we must work with groups such as NIOSH and affiliated organizations to find ways to encourage more individuals to achieve the highest level of safety education.
The use of nanoscale materials is growing rapidly, with experts predicting that the global impact of nanotechnology-related products will exceed $1 trillion by 2015. However, many questions remain regarding the occupational health risks associated with manufacturing and using nanomaterials. Much research is still needed to fully understand these exposures and to develop appropriate monitoring and control strategies. We must vigilantly monitor the results of this research and respond accordingly in order to best protect workers.
Recent disasters have placed intense focus on the need to be better prepared to respond to crises of all kinds. As SH&E professionals, we must continually seek ways to share our knowledge and lessons learned with employers and clients in order to help them develop, test and improve their response and recovery plans.
Concerns about an avian flu pandemic continue to grow. Such an event would stress critical functions, business continuity and the healthcare industry. While it is impossible to predict if or when this may occur, we must take a lead role in educating employers and employees and our local communities about the risks, and in developing plans to help them respond to the safety and health issues that will arise should a pandemic occur.
Each of these areas poses many challenges for the coming year and beyond. But each also presents SH&E professionals with many opportunities to engage business leaders, policymakers, employees and the public in our mission to improve safety and health in all we do.
Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP