ASSE Opposes Proposal to Cut NIOSH Education Research Centers

In a letter to Sen. Thomas Harkin, D-Iowa, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) expressed strong opposition to the proposed elimination of support for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AFF) programs and Educational Research Centers (ERCs) in the administration’s proposed budget for FY 2012.

According to ASSE, these NIOSH programs directly help the United States confront the unacceptable costs of lost lives from work-related injuries, both in lives and dollars that come from deaths, injuries and illnesses in U.S. workplaces.

ASSE noted that a recent landmark NIOSH study found that between 1992 and 2002, the deaths of 64,333 workers in the United States resulted in $53 billion in societal costs.

“This nation continues to struggle economically,” ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, said. “But this proposal to eliminate two programs that directly help save lives and reduce costs is unacceptable. These programs are a vitally important investment in continuing to help employers and our members, safety, health and environmental professionals be competitive in an increasingly challenging difficult world marketplace.”

Hazardous Industries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data on fatalities and injuries consistently show that the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are among the most dangerous industries for workers. In fact, the American farmer is eight times more likely to die on the job than the average U. S. worker. After a fatality occurs, seven out of 10 farms go out of business.

ASSE noted that the NIOSH AFF program is the most significant federal initiative today that seeks to secure a safe workplace for agricultural workers. NIOSH and its partners in the agriculture, forestry and fishing areas continuously are working on projects in areas such as pesticide exposure, agricultural surveillance, “smart clothing” for loggers and forest workers and improving vessel stability. Eliminating the AFF program also will end NIOSH’s rollover protective structure (ROPS) tractor retrofit program.

ASSE also opposes the proposed elimination of support for the NIOSH Educational Resource Centers (ERCs) in the FY 2012 budget proposal. The ERCs provide resources to educate and train occupational safety and health professionals in areas of industrial hygiene, occupational health nursing, occupational medicine and occupational safety, plus specialized areas relevant to the occupational safety and health field. Employers rely on occupational safety and health professionals to help them prevent employee injuries and illness as well as avoiding the costs associated with such losses.

“As the budget battle continues, we urge you to listen to our 33,000 members who work with employers to protect workers and workplaces day in and day out,” Hill said. “They are on the front lines and see no justification for cutting NIOSH programs that help employees, employers and Americans.”

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