These economically tough times are apparently bringing some good news to the safety profession.
A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) found that more employers are realizing the value of workplace safety. Not only that, many employers say they foresee an increase in hiring safety professionals nationally and regionally.
Faced with increased health care and workers' compensation costs, high employee turnover rates and a reduction in marketplace share and profits, more employers are being forced to reevaluate the benefits of effective workplace safety programs.
This change is reflected in the results of a national survey of ASSE members where less than 30 percent of respondents reported a decrease in occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) jobs at their workplace in 2001. In fact, close to 20 percent witnessed an increase in the hiring of SH&E personnel while 52 percent said there was no personnel change.
"Most companies are using safety professionals to full potential because people want safe work environments," Eddie Greer, ASSE president, said. "In the past, a lot of the growth in the safety profession was regulatory-driven, but today it just makes good business sense to protect people in the workplace. Companies are realizing that they get results by doing the right things for their employees."
Employers are realizing that true safety, health and environmental value comes in being proactive, to eliminate incidents rather than being reactive to events in the workplace, Greer added.
The ASSE December 2001 survey sought information on how members' jobs were affected during the economic downturn of 2001, what occupational trends they see on the horizon and their concerns.
As for when layoffs occurred, survey respondents said the majority of personnel reduction happened in October 2001 (19.3 percent), then November (17.2 percent), December (10.7 percent), June and August (both 7.3 percent). The majority of the respondents, 59.2 percent, said the decrease was due to the economy.
While some organizations were laying off during those months, others were hiring. ASSE members that saw an increase in the hiring of SH&E personnel said most of the hiring occurred in October (16.3 percent), followed by September (11.4 percent), November (8.9 percent), June (7.9 percent), August and July (both 6.9 percent).
In response to the question as to whether they foresee additional increases or decreases in hiring of SH&E personnel in 2002 at their workplace, 34.7 percent expect to see an increase, 31.3 percent expect to see a decrease and 34 percent are unsure.
ASSE membership is broken down into eight regions in the United States. Region VI (Washington, D.C., Va., Md., N.C. and S.C.) saw the largest decrease in occupational safety personnel in the last three months of 2001 followed by Region VIII (N.Y., N.J., Conn., Pa., R.I., Vt., Mass., Maine, Del. and N.H.). Region III (Ark., Okla. and Texas) saw the largest increase in hiring during the last part of 2001 with Region IV (Ala., Fla., Ga., La., Miss. and Puerto Rico) seeing the second largest increase in hiring. Members in Region IV also foresee the largest increase in hiring in the next few months with Region VII (Ind., Ky., Mich., Ohio, Tenn. and W.Va.) expected to see the second largest increase in hiring. In the next few months, Region VI is expected to see the largest decrease in hiring followed by Region VIII. Although Oregon and Washington have the highest overall unemployment rates, only 26 percent of ASSE members in those states saw a decrease in the number of SH&E jobs, 49.6 percent saw no change and 21.8 percent expect to see an increase in hiring in the next few months.
Other survey results found:
- Seventy-five percent of survey respondents work in the private sector, 19.7 in the public sector and 5.2 percent are self-employed.
- Of those employed in the private sector, 68 percent work at companies that employ 501 or more people, 21.4 percent work at companies employing 51-500 people and 10.5 percent work at companies that employ 1&endash50 people.
- Half of the ASSE respondents work at companies that are domestically owned with global operations, 37 percent at domestically owned companies that don't have global operations and 13 percent work for foreign owned companies with global operations.
- Most respondents said they expect to see an increase in outsourcing in the industrial hygiene area, while outsourcing in other areas will remain the same.
ASSE is a 90-year-old non-profit organization that represents more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals worldwide For more information on the survey findings and ASSE check www.asse.org.
edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])