On Aug. 25, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4,547 workers lost their lives on the job in 2010, a preliminary count that closely aligns with the 4,551 fatalities recorded in 2009. The fact that fatal occupational injuries have not increased but remained steady is no cause for celebration, ASSE said. Rather, this plateau should be viewed as “evidence that this nation’s effort to protect workers is stalled.”
ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, CPSI, called for a new paradigm in how the United States protects its workers.
“For far too long, occupational safety and health has been dominated by a politically charged ‘yes and no’ conversation about occupational safety and health that, as these statistics demonstrate, is not advancing worker protections,” Norris said. “This oppositional approach leaves too many of this nation’s workplaces mired in efforts that do not achieve better safety but merely meet the most minimal standards for safety. That needs to change.”
Norris said that the nation’s approach to workplace safety must engage employers, workers and OSHA in a dialogue about the risks inherent in each workplace and then address those risks. Such efforts should be supported not only by enforcement, but also by NIOSH research and education resources.
Norris added that ASSE supports OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (I2P2) as a way to shift OSHA’s focus to risk-based, cooperative efforts. ASSE members are working toward a new paradigm by establishing a Risk Assessment Task Force; a Sustainability Task Force; and advocating a federal occupational safety and health reform bill that addresses updating the 40-year-old OSH Act.
“The time has come for all stakeholders in occupational safety and health to come down off the plateau of acceptance and work together to find conciliatory ways that help make sure our economy, our jobs and corporate bottom lines can benefit from a safe and healthy work force,” Norris concluded.