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ASSE Says Just Released BLS Workplace Fatalities Report Should be a Call to Action

Posted in on Tue, Aug 30, 2011

DES PLAINES, IL (August 30, 2011) – The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) sees the release of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ preliminary report on fatal occupational injuries for 2010 last week showing a total of 4,547 workers died from on-the-job injuries in 2010 compared with 4,551 from 2009, a call for action. ASSE also sends their condolences to the families of the 4,547 people who lost their lives from occupational injuries.

The report shows transportation-related fatalities continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths followed by assaults and violent acts, contact with objects and equipment, falls, and exposure to harmful substances or environments.

ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, CPSI, representing more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members of the 100-year-old ASSE, comments on the BLS National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2010 report:

“ASSE urges everyone concerned with worker safety not to accept as reasonable the preliminary results of this report that show little change in the number of workplace fatalities between 2009 and 2010.  Despite the dedicated efforts of ASSE’s members, employers, workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the fact that this nation’s fatalities are not significantly decreasing should be a call for action, not complacency, especially at an economically challenging time when some of the most dangerous industries are not at full employment.  A statistical plateau of worker fatalities is not an achievement but evidence that this nation’s effort to protect workers is stalled.  These statistics call for nothing less than a new paradigm in the way this nation protects workers.

“For far too long, occupational safety and health has been dominated by a politically charged yes and no conversation about occupational safety and health that, as these statistics demonstrate, is not advancing worker protections.  This oppositional approach leaves too many of this nation’s workplaces mired in efforts that do not achieve better safety but merely meet the most minimal standards for safety.  That needs to change.

“Instead of a tug of war over compliance to prescriptive standards that cannot address each workplace, this nation’s approach to workplace safety must encourage a specific dialogue about the most important risks in each workplace that engages employers, workers and OSHA in a cooperative effort to address those risks, supported not only enforcement but by NIOSH research and education resources.

“ASSE and its members are engaged in helping move this nation towards that goal.  ASSE has supported the idea of an OSHA injury and illness prevention program (I2P2) standard with the knowledge that this standard, if done well, can begin to move OSHA’s focus from prescriptive approaches to safety to risk-based and more cooperative efforts.  We have established a ‘Risk Assessment Task Force’ of members and others who will work to engage the occupational safety and health community in moving towards more risk-based approaches to managing safety in all workplaces.  ASSE’s ‘Sustainability Task Force’ is intent on making sure the quickly growing voluntary fervor among employers to address sustainability encompasses worker safety and health now.  Our federal occupational safety and health reform bill seeks to be a platform for compromise and addresses ways the 40-year-old OSH Act fails to advance workplace safety, including helping make the standard-setting process work, allowing the adoption of updated permissible exposure limits (PELs) and better defining who is qualified to do safety, among a variety of measures.

“The time has come for all stakeholders in occupational safety and health to come down off the plateau of acceptance and work together to find conciliatory ways that help make sure our economy, our jobs and corporate bottom lines can benefit from a safe and healthy workforce.”

Founded in 1911, the 100-year-old Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to www.asse.org,  to www.bls.gov for the 2010 fatal occupational figures and to www.asse.org/newsroom to view the “ASSE– 100 Years of Safety” video.

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