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Purposeful Action for Change

Deborah R. Roy, M.P.H., R.N., CSP, COHN-S, CIT, FASSP, FAAOHN, 2020-2021 ASSP President
Sep 01, 2020

ASSP President Deb RoyOver the past few months, voices around our nation and around the world have called for an end to systemic racism, and they have placed significant focus on the need for social justice and equity. We agree that the impact of inequities on personal and professional lives is immeasurable and unacceptable. To help overcome these issues, diversity, equity and inclusion must be made a priority within all organizations and across all communities.

ASSP has taken some actions in recent years to promote greater diversity and inclusion within ASSP. For example, we added a policy to our nominations and elections process to ensure that candidates with diverse backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints are considered for senior Society roles. In addition, we have regular discussions to be sure we consider a diverse set of candidates for committee appointments and that we hear a wide range of viewpoints from our members. 

We also launched our Leadership Connection process in 2018 to encourage more members to share their interest in volunteering and to help counter misperceptions that committee appointments were based primarily on “who you know.” Learn more.

While all of these actions are steps in the right direction, we recognize that as a Society we must take more consistent and purposeful action to create lasting change. As part of our effort to better understand the challenges our members face with respect to diversity, equity and inclusion, we recently met with the leaders of our Blacks in Safety Excellence (BISE) Common Interest Group, and several of us also attended the group’s virtual meeting in mid-June 2020.

We heard personal stories that conveyed the bias, fear, anxiety, pain and suffering that have been all too common in their lives and in their communities. But we also heard their deep compassion and concern about workers who face inequities of any kind, including Blacks, Hispanics, the LGBTQ+ population and people with disabilities. Many of these workers already have poor access to healthcare, safe housing and community support, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified these concerns.

During our conversations, the leaders of BISE asked the Board of Directors to consider a strategic approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, one that goes beyond the diversity policy currently contained in our Society Operating Guidelines. To help lead that process, they suggested we establish a board-level task force to develop a recommended strategy and action plan.

The board agreed and we issued a call for volunteers interested in joining the task force in late July. I will chair the group and will be joined by ASSP CEO Jennifer McNelly, members of our common interest groups and members who have experience with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives or have led organizational change efforts. Our goal is to present recommendations to the board in early 2021. Learn more.

As safety professionals who serve in every industry around the globe, we must find ways to amplify the voice of all workers, help to remove barriers of all kinds to safe work practices and reduce the risks to all workers in our care. I am grateful that a growing number of members have made their voices heard on these important issues in recent months. Your feedback and input has made clear the need for us to change policies, procedures and systems to ensure that they provide equitable opportunities for all in the safety community.

To nurture a culture in which all stakeholders have opportunities to contribute and excel, we must recognize and remove the barriers that prevent some members from contributing to our Society and advancing in their careers. Doing so will enable us to truly work together to create a safer, stronger future for workers everywhere.

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