ASSE: Transportation, Aging Work Force Among Top Issues

Although workplace fatalities declined in 2005, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Donald Jones Sr. emphasized that it is important to remain vigilant, as transportation-related crashes, the aging work force, nanotechnology risks and the possibility of an avian flu pandemic will be significant safety issues in the coming year.

"ASSE and its members must keep our focus on creating the safest work environments possible, and we must press the mindset that one injury, one illness or one fatality is one too many," Jones said.

Jones placed special emphasis on transportation-related crashes, which continue to be the No. 1 cause of on-the-job deaths.

"Work-related transportation deaths are a major concern," Jones said. "Many of our members develop and implement rigid commercial vehicle driver safety policies resulting in saved lives, increased use of seat belts and more. However, we cannot control other drivers and the condition of the roads and bridges. But we can and do help our employees by providing safety programs, a structured vehicle maintenance program and vehicles that offer the highest levels of occupant protection."

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), transportation-related deaths in 2004 represented 43 percent of all workplace fatalities.

Helping the Aging Work Force

Jones notes that employers and EHS professionals must recognize and meet the needs of the changing work force. According to ASSE, it is estimated that by 2014 the 55-and-older age group will make up 21.2 percent of the work force. To accommodate these changing dynamics in an ongoing effort to reduce fatality rates, ASSE suggests that businesses should design a safe workplace for the aging workers – which could include the following:

  • Improving illumination, adding color contrast;
  • Eliminating heavy lifts;
  • Designing work floors and platforms with smooth and solid decking while still allowing some cushioning;
  • Reducing static standing time;
  • Removing clutter from control panels and computer screens and using large video displays; and
  • Reducing noise levels.

Age of Nanotechnology, Avian Flu Cause for Concern

Little is known about how nanotechnology could affect workers, and Jones stated that more research is needed to study such effects. "We must vigilantly monitor the results of this research and respond accordingly in order to best protect workers," Jones said.

In addition, Jones pointed out that ASSE continues to take a lead role in educating its members on how to manage a possible flu pandemic, especially in a business setting.

"Such an event would stress critical functions, business continuity and the health care industry," Jones said. "While it is impossible to predict if or when this may occur, we must take a lead role in educating employers and employees and our local communities about the risks, and in developing plans to help them manage and respond to the safety and health issues that will arise should a pandemic occur."

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