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The Changing Face of Workplace Safety Post 9/11

As many of us celebrate Labor Day, the members of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) are responding to the changing face of workplace safety following 9/11.

"We've entered a whole new phase," ASSE member Mark Briggs, CSP, ARM, of Urbana, Ill., said in a recently released ASSE video. "We are more focused now on emergency planning, trying to plan for contingencies that were not on our radar screen before."

ASSE President James "Skipper" Kendrick, CSP, of Hurst, Tex., said, "We have a wonderful profession with which we have the opportunity to go in day in and day out, and prevent injury and illness to our people; the people that work with us, and also to prevent harm to the environment."

According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there were 5,900 workplace fatalities in the U.S. in 2001 not including the 2,886 who died on Sept. 11, 2001. On 9/11, terrorist attacks left 2,198 people and 412 rescue workers dead at New York City's World Trade Center; killed 125 people at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.; and killed 151 people on the planes that crashed in Pennsylvania, Virginia and New York City.

"We're seeing a whole different realm of safety problems from biochemical to security to employee comfort that we've never seen before," ASSE Regional Vice President Sam Lybarger, CSP, CSHM, of Las Vegas, Nev., said. "More people are going to start relying heavily on the safety professional to give them comfort and reassurance that the workplace is safe."

Companies must embrace occupational safety, health and environmental Programs, said New Orleans ASSE member Philip Casper. "It's there to help you, allow your business to grow. One significant incident can drastically affect a business negatively, and literally shut a small business down."

"Safety will save management in insurance premiums and medical costs and will also give their employees comfort," Lybarger added.

According to the book "Safety and the Bottom Line," the average direct and indirect cost of risk to American companies is a minimum of 25 percent of their net profit. The benefits of occupational safety and health programs, according to hundreds of top executives from around the world include: reduced absenteeism, fewer liability cases, fewer grievances, reduced court awards, reduced insurance costs, compliance with safety and health legislation, control of injuries and illnesses, compliance with environmental legislation, ability to handle contingency situations, fire and explosion prevention, property damage control, waste control, fewer human errors, increased quality control, continuous management improvement, a positive public image, the existence of a "caring" culture, improved pride in the job, increased productivity, major cost reduction potential, and, profit and budget improvement.

"The greatest benefits of being in the safety profession that I can see," said Indiana ASSE member Jim Kriner, "is the sense of being able to help individuals go home each night with their fingers and toes intact and live a healthy life, to be able to spend time with their families, and enjoy life to its fullest."

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