Elizabeth Dole received the Flame of Life Award from the National Safety Council during the opening ceremonies of the National Safety Congress and Expo. The award, which recognizes significant lifesaving contributions to safety, has only been awarded three times. Dole was recognized for her leadership of safety initiatives throughout every stage of her career.
As secretary of transportation from 1983-1987, Dole influenced President Ronald Reagan and Congress to enact the 21-year old drinking age. Passage of this uniform drinking age eliminated “blood borders,” areas in the country where young people were killed or gravely injured returning from a neighbor state with a lower drinking age. At virtually the same time, she issued a landmark regulation which resulted in widespread enactment of state safety belt laws and air bags in all cars. Not a single state at the time had passed a safety belt law, usage was 13 percent and air bags virtually were non-existent. These three actions have saved nearly 400,000 lives to date with an estimated 20,000 lives saved each coming year.
“I had the CEO of a major automaker in my office, screaming at me that ‘Safety doesn’t sell,’” remembered Dole in her acceptance speech.
During Dole’s tenure as secretary of labor from 1989-1990, she continued to make safety and health leadership her hallmark. Among the many OSHA actions under her guidance were the lockout/tagout standard, which established procedures to safeguard more than 39 million workers and prevent an estimated 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries each year. Also under her leadership, OSHA addressed the important issue of ergonomics and promulgated a stronger rule to protect construction workers from the hazards of working in trenches and excavations. Since issuing the rule, trenching fatalities have declined by 40 percent. A major new regulation to protect workers against blood-borne pathogens, such as AIDS and Hepatitis B, was DOL’s first time in history to deal with a biological hazard or infectious disease. Among her major initiatives with the Mine Safety and Health Administration was the “Patterns Rule,” which sought to crack down on repeated serious violations.
Dole served as the president of the American Red Cross from 1991-1999, directing the work of 32,000 staff members and 1.3 million volunteers. She led a massive transformation of the way the Red Cross collects, tests and distributes one-half of the nation's blood supply. It was a 7-year effort designed to move antiquated World War II-era blood bank practices to a centralized state-of-the-art system with standard operating procedures. It involved integrating 28 different computer systems into a central operation, and replacing 53 testing laboratories with 8 new high-tech labs to ensure that blood is safe to give and safe to get.
Among her many accomplishments as the first woman United States senator from North Carolina from 2003-2009, Dole strongly supported 2005 Highway Act provisions that gave major incentives to states to upgrade their safety belt laws.
“Elizabeth Dole’s career is filled with impactful examples of strategies put in place to save lives and prevent injuries,” said Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of NSC. “Dole is one of the century’s foremost safety leaders. Her leadership has played a crucial role in the safety movement and is an inspiration for all those who dedicate their lives to keeping others safe and well.”