September 2014

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.

President's Message - March 2007

It is up to us as SH&E professionals to seek new ways to assess and report safety performance so that executives clearly see the benefits of preventing injuries and illnesses.

2006-2007 ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP

The Essence of Safety

We often find ourselves searching for life's silver bullet-one idea or strategy that we believe will finally solve all our problems and put us over the top. It remains elusive, however, perhaps because it simply doesn't exist.

The practice of safety is much like life. There is no one answer, no one way of doing things that guarantees success. As many safety experts have said, what works in one facility, one workplace, one organization may not produce the same results in another.

But can we at least point to certain elements shared by companies that have experienced long-term success-outcomes sustained over time and in the face of constant change? We all can probably cite an important few-management commitment, employee participation, a systems approach to risk and hazard control, a continuous improvement process. In fact, if you look at many of the current models for safety and health management systems-things such as ANSI/AIHA Z10 and OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)-you'll find that they embody these principles in some form or another. In the end, it comes down to having a sense that everyone is working toward a common goal-a safe workplace.

Throughout my career, I have had much experience with VPP in particular, participating in site evaluations and mentoring sites interested in joining the program. Facilities that participate in VPP commit themselves to a cooperative process that goes well beyond OSHA compliance. According to OSHA, the typical VPP site has a lost workday incidence rate at least 50% below the average of its industry. Through my work involving VPP, I have seen firsthand the kind of results that are possible when an organization takes a committed, cooperative approach to workplace safety.

During a recent trip to Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to meet with the executive director of the Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association (VPPPA). VPPPA is an organization dedicated to cooperative occupational safety, health and environmental management systems. It represents a network of more than 1,600 companies and worksites involved in VPP through either OSHA or the Department of Energy.

ASSE and VPPPA have much in common. Both are committed to advancing workplace safety and protecting workers. Both are also dedicated to ensuring that federal commitment to OSHA and other agencies which impact workplace safety and health remains strong. And both seek to promote and share industry best practices to ensure that work environments are as safe as possible.

One thing is certain when considering safety performance. Companies that are safe- those truly dedicated to sustaining a high level of performance and that seek to improve continuously-are not satisfied with merely achieving compliance. Instead, they champion occupational safety by focusing on developing management systems, fostering cooperation and participation, and building on successes.

My son Donnie, who was a member of the LSU football team which won the national championship in 2003, has often said that the team's greatest strength was that it was a group of guys who played together. "There were a lot of great players on that team," he explains, "but they were unselfish players. It was a true team and that's why we were able to accomplish so much. Everyone worked together and did what they had to do for the common good of all." The essence of safety, wouldn't you say?

Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP