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Rising Workplace Fatalities Must Be Met With Standards, Safety Systems

Dec 17, 2019

PARK RIDGE, Illinois — The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the world’s oldest professional safety organization, is urging employers to be more active in adopting voluntary national consensus standards and implementing safety and health management systems in response to newly released fatality data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS reported that 5,250 fatal work injuries occurred in 2018, a 2 percent increase from the previous year’s total of 5,147. It is the fourth time in the past five years that fatal occupational injuries increased.

“With the innovative tools available to today’s employers nationwide, it’s concerning that we’re continuing to see higher numbers of worker fatalities,” said ASSP President Diana Stegall, CSP, CFPS, ARM, SMS, CPCU. “Most occupational incidents are preventable given today’s technologies and proven safety and health strategies.”

Voluntary consensus standards promote best practices and prevent worker injuries, illnesses and fatalities – especially valuable during this time of low activity in regulatory development at the federal level. ASSP is the secretariat for many standards committees in the United States and worldwide, forming expert groups and ensuring standards are developed and revised in accordance with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

While regulatory entities like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set workplace safety standards mandated by law, voluntary consensus standards are those guidelines that safety-minded organizations choose to implement because of their merit. Consensus standards reflect diverse viewpoints and represent state-of-the-art practices and technologies while addressing gaps where no regulatory standard exists in today’s rapidly changing environment.

“Voluntary national consensus standards can transform safety programs from compliance-based cost centers to corporate sustainability initiatives that save lives and positively impact the organization’s bottom line,” Stegall said.

ASSP believes that improvement in workplace safety should also be anchored in safety and health management systems such as the newly revised ANSI/ASSP Z10.0-2019 standard. Z10 is a blueprint for any company to develop and administer a safety and health management system. It establishes an operational foundation by ensuring that critical processes are integrated. Customized elements are based on the organization’s characteristics such as hazard exposures, risk levels, industry type and business processes.

The BLS fatality data comes on the heels of the department’s annual injuries and illnesses report that showed a stagnation of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2018. It was the first time since 2012 that the incidence rate did not decrease.

“Strong workplace cultures that bring together management and employees while including safety and health climates must become a priority for all companies and organizations,” Stegall said. “ASSP will continue to push for better protection of workers to ensure that everyone returns home safe to their families every day.”

About ASSP – Working together for a safer, stronger future
For more than 100 years, the American Society of Safety Professionals has been at the forefront of helping occupational safety and health professionals protect people and property. The nonprofit society is based in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge. Its global membership of over 39,000 professionals covers every industry, developing safety and health management plans that prevent injuries, illnesses and deaths. ASSP advances its members and the safety profession through education, advocacy, standards and a professional community. Its flagship publication, Professional Safety, is a longtime leader in the field. Visit www.assp.org and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Media contact: Blaine Krage, 847.768.3416, bkrage@assp.org
Kenneth Walker

While all of this is a fact, I think it's important to note that the rate of fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, 3.5, has remained unchanged for three straight years and is in step with the ten year average of 3.47, going back to 2010.

There is no doubt that we should do better, but the rate per 100K paints a more accurate picture of where we are as a safe workforce. In fact, couple the 2019 rate of 3.5 and three straight years (not two as stated above) rate of 2.8 cases per 100K, and I'd say there is reason for optimism!

In a nutshell, when the rates are considered for both injuries and fatalities, we have remain unchanged for three years running. Not an improvement, but certainly not a decline.

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!  

Richard Hart
Looking at the BLS report, the fatal injury rate has been the same for 2017/18/19. While the raw numbers have increased 2%, the incident rate has stayed the same which is indicative of higher employment.  Had unemployment been high and the raw numbers decreased but the rate stayed the same, it would not be a call for celebration.  The number of fatalities/ 100 FTE's remains unchanged.   How do we effect change?  I do think Z10 and 45001 are two ways to move the incident rate. 

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