ASSE Poll: Voters Split on Management's Committment to Safety

Nov. 27, 2002
Just over 50 percent of members of the American Society of Safety Engineers' (ASSE) Instapoll question said they do not believe management is committed to workplace safety or believes management thinks safety contributes to the bottom line.

About 5,000 people participated in the ASSE issue poll that ran on its Web site (www.asse.org) from Nov. 18 to Nov. 25.

In all, 51.2 percent of voters answered "no" to the question "Do you believe that corporate management is committed to workplace safety and believes that it contributes positively to the bottom line?" and 48.8 percent voted "yes".

In the past, much growth in the safety profession was regulatory-driven, but today it makes good business sense to provide a safe workplace. The cost of preventing work-related injuries and illnesses is far less than the cost of correcting them.

According to OSHA, every year workplace deaths, illnesses and injuries cost the nation $170 billion. ASSE estimates that for every $1 invested in a safety and health program, $4 to $6 is saved because injuries, illnesses and fatalities decline, and medical costs and workers' compensation costs decrease. Corporations of all sizes that invest in and implement effective safety programs realize reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, higher productivity, increased employee moral and a positive brand image.

In addition to voting, some respondents offered comments about the question.

One respondent wrote, "A corporation's management may be committed to workplace safety for reasons other than that it contributes positively to the bottom line. Case in point, commitment may come in response to an OSHA citation and accompanying fine. Though one may argue reduction of fines contributes positively to the bottom line, I personally have met with upper managers who don't see it that way. They've felt that once the fine is paid, the public attention is lost, then its 'back to business' as before."

The respondent went on to add, "[Management] may be committed at the moment, or however long it takes to address the citation, but later that commitment often falls to other more pressing issues at the moment … Now that CEOs and boards are being held accountable for business behavior (Enron, etc.), it may be time to target them on SH&E issues as well."

Another respondent pointed out that while many corporate executives say they are committed to workplace safety, most have no direct involvement with that commitment. "The real question is, from my perspective: Assuming the significance of workplace safety on the bottom line is recognized, does corporate management take a direct role in ensuring the potential losses related to workplace safety are minimized and that the gains from ensuring workplace safety are maximized? I would say that in general, 60 percent or more of corporate managers think they do and 60 percent or more of safety professionals do not think there is that level of commitment from corporate management."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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