ASSE: Eliminating Occupational Safety and Health Training Program Would Hurt New York Workers

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and its New York members are calling on New York Gov. George Pataki to keep the Hazard Abatement Board and its Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program, which ASSE says have been critical tools in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses.

Pataki's recent budget proposal would effectively eliminate this program by providing less than half the funding currently available to continue safety and health training, ASSE said in a news release.

Founded in 1911 in New York, the professional organization, now based in Des Plaines, Ill., estimates 1,400 of its 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members are in New York.

"Without proper training, the chance of being injured or killed on the job is much greater," ASSE President Gene Barfield, CSP, said. "And if you look at the stats, New York has the fourth highest number of on-the-job deaths in the U.S. The people of New York need this program."

Program has served thousands of New York workers

After a reorganization several years ago, the 19-year-old Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education program has run well with tight oversight and active outreach to the business community, according to ASSE. Training classes offered by the program, including 10-hour OSHA classes, PIT training, hazcom, flagging and work zone safety and workplace violence, have been successfully conducted under program grants, according to the professional organization.

The program has provided training on how to eliminate workplace hazards to hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the state of New York, ASSE says.

"As a safety, health and environmental professional whose job it is to help protect workers, this program works and is necessary," Barfield said. "Lack of or less effective training ultimately means more injuries and illnesses and most likely higher workers compensation insurance rates."

In a letter to Pataki, Barfield urged him to reconsider the proposal to eliminate the Hazard Abatement Board that would reduce New York's commitment to the Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program.

"ASSE's safety, health and environmental professionals are responsible for identifying hazards and developing appropriate controls for those hazards and protecting the safety and health of workers. One of the key tools they have to accomplish their goal of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and property damage is through training," Barfield says in the letter. "This program is a vitally important for New York businesses and workers. It helps both the workers and businesses acquire the tools necessary to recognize, eliminate and appropriately control workplace safety and health hazards, thereby helping prevent injury, illness and property damage.

"If the program is eliminated, our members believe that New York's employers will experience more injuries among their employees, increased lost work days and ultimately higher costs in workers' compensation, health care costs and other related expenses. Not only have workers benefited from this program, but employers, too, have shared in the benefits of this investment."

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