Citing an "alarming" rise in deaths from preventable injuries last year, the National Safety Council (NSC) released its first "Safety Agenda for the Nation," a proposal aimed at cutting injuries and fatalities on the nation''s highways, workplaces and homes.
The Council presented the new agenda, accompanied by slides full of data and video appearances by safety luminaries, during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington yesterday.
NSC President Gerald Scannell pointed out that unintentional injuries claimed the lives of 95,500 Americans in 1999, the highest death toll since 1988. Most of the increase occurred in homes and public places and was due to such causes as falls, poisoning, fires and choking.
Scannell noted that while workplace safety has improved in recent decades, the rate of job-related deaths has not declined significantly since 1992 and remains unacceptable.
The NSC president descried the lack of attention given to occupational fatalities, and noted that on an average day in the workplace, 14 people are killed and more than 10,400 are disabled, a death toll equivalent to a major airline disaster every two weeks.
"Airline crashes, of course, are big news," Scannell said. "Workplace deaths and serious injuries are not."
The Council argued that the country needs a systematic approach to safety and health in the workplace, as opposed to going after hazards one at a time and after the fact.
The Council''s agenda calls on companies to adopt a "Corporate Code of Safety and Health Ethics," which would, among other things, make safety and health a core value of the organization, equal in importance to financial performance. The code also would require companies to establish a comprehensive safety audit to identify current and potential hazards and to establish accountability for their abatement.
The NSC presentation included a video appearance by United Parcel Service Chief Executive Officer James Kelly, who touted his company''s recent success in cutting injuries by 40 percent. Kelly attributed the decline in part to inducing employees and managers to see safety as a team effort that includes everybody, and he urged other companies to follow this example.
UPS has also been one of the most vocal opponents OSHA''s proposed ergonomics regulation.
When asked after the presentation if the NSC has taken a position on the ergonomics proposal, Scannell said the organization is still assessing the public comments on the rule and may come out with a decision later.
The NSC is a non-profit non-governmental public service organization with 37,000 members from all walks of life, including business, labor, government, community and professional groups.
The Safety Agenda for the Nation and related documents are available on the NSC''s Web site, www. nsc.org.
by James Nash