ASSE Comments On 2009 BLS Work Fatalities Reduction Report

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The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) passes along its condolences to the families of the 4,340 people who lost their lives last year due to on-the-job injuries, according to statistics just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, officials from the organization note there is still much more to do.

“Although the workplace fatality rates have dropped, there is still much work to do. Those 4,340 people never made it home to their family,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, said. “On the other hand, we applaud those safety professionals, smart companies. and organizations that continually develop and implement workplace safety systems and processes that prevent injuries and illnesses. They make a difference every day. However, our members know that every day there is a new risk and a new way to protect workers and the environment; because of this, they continue to adapt and build new protections and systems aimed at protecting workers everywhere.

“We urge businesses, despite the economic downturn, to continue to invest in workplace safety management systems and processes now to reduce the number of these tragic losses,” Hill continued. “It also pays to invest in workplace safety when it comes to health costs. The safer a workplace is, the less chance a worker will be injured or suffer an illness.”

Hill noted that many already know it is good business to protect people in the workplace. Preventing work-related injuries and illnesses cost far less than correcting them.

“Companies that invest consistently in safety realize positive bottom line results, reduced absenteeism, lower turnover rates, higher productivity, increased employee morale, and a positive brand image. As illnesses, injuries, and fatalities decline, healthcare and workers compensation costs decline as well,” Hill said.

Studies have shown that the indirect cost of a workplace injury can be up to 10 times that of the direct costs. For every $1 invested in an effective workplace safety program, $4 to $6 may be saved as illnesses, injuries, and fatalities decline. Indirect costs include: training and compensating replacement workers; repairing damaged property; accident investigation and implementation of corrective actions; scheduling delays and lost productivity; administrative expenses; low employee morale and increased absenteeism; and, poor customer and community relations.

As for the leading cause of on-the-job deaths, Hill noted, “With the expanded ongoing efforts of our members the past few years at increasing fleet safety to address the annual increase in on-the-job transportation-related fatalities, we are pleased to see a reduction in those fatalities but are concerned that they still continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths. We will continue through communicating, sharing best practices, symposiums, mentoring, and more to work to reduce these roadway tragedies.”

Another major concern is the fact that homicides/violent acts continue to be the second leading cause of on-the-job fatalities. An ASSE “Workplace Violence Survey of ASSE Members and White Paper” conducted by the ASSE Risk Management and Insurance (RM/I) Practice Specialty found that many companies and organizations in all industries had yet to address the problem of workplace violence.

Noting that one size does not fit all, the ASSE RM/I members suggested employers consider adopting the following practices to address the prevention of workplace violence:

  • Officers and directors – establish a workplace violence prevention policy; upper management must promote a clear antiviolence corporate policy; and, establish and maintain security policies.
  • Human resource managers – examine and improve hiring practices; implement prescreening techniques; utilize background checks; encourage employees to report threats or violent behavior; establish termination policies; and, provide post-termination counseling.
  • Risk management and safety, health, and environmental departments – train all employees in the warning signs of aggressive or violent behavior; train management in threat assessment and de-escalation techniques; conduct a formal workplace violence risk assessment; increase security as needed; develop and communicate a contingency plan to all employees which includes crisis management; review insurance coverage and verify coverage and exclusions; and, identify a defensive strategy.

“As we move forward,” Hill said, “ASSE and its members will continue to work to protect people, property, and the environment. They work in all areas of safety including environmental, system safety, media, risk management, mining, transportation, industrial hygiene, ergonomics, entertainment, fire protection, radiation, chemical process, construction, and much, much more using safety science and promoting good leadership and management techniques.”

A positive area to note is that there continues to be an ongoing demand for occupational safety, health, and environmental information, training, and insight, indicating that business, organizations, government entities, labor, and individual interest in providing a safe workplace and the profession is high.

Since 1911, members of ASSE, occupational safety, health, and environmental professionals have been working day in and day out to protect people, property, and the environment in all industries and environments. From working at zoos protecting attendees, workers, and animals to designing risk out of new buildings, safety professionals are committed to making sure that the millions of people who go to work every day leave work injury and illness free to return home safely to their families and friends.

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