Why Every New Year Should Be Safer Than the Previous

The holidays are upon us. I think people seem to be more grateful and even gracious this time of year; work generally slows down a bit and many of us have more time to spend with family and friends. I don't think it is a mystery for anyone who has regularly followed this safety column that I have expressed some other than grateful opinions about some of the safety initiatives taking place today. In the spirit of this time of year, I will take this article in a different, more grateful direction. I will focus a few reasons I am grateful for the current state of safety.

Continued reductions in workplace fatalities and injuries

Before 1970 in America, safety was up to individuals, contractors, or assorted industry groups. Numbers were improving, but slowly. OSHA was formed in 1970 after studies determined a need for some beefed up motivation for employers. It is easy to look at increased compliance and enforcement as a negative; however, we should not lose sight of one big fact.

As taken from the OSHA website the following statistics are very telling: Since 1970, workplace fatalities have been reduced by more than 65 percent and occupational injury and illness rates have declined by 67 percent. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled.

Worker deaths in America are down — on average, from about 38 worker deaths a day in 1970 to 12 a day in 2012.

Impressive stats

Worker injuries and illnesses are down — from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.5 per 100 in 2011.

There is no way that the credit for all these positive statistics can be attributed only to the formation of OSHA, (or any of the other regulatory agencies formed since). Increased technology, training and individual company initiatives have all greatly contributed.

However, the OSHA era of safety, as it is called, opened a door for companies to have some incentive to work safely other than it simply being the right thing to do." The days of eating lunch on steel beams 80 stories up sans fall protection, and construction estimators adding funds to each high-rise project for fatalities and injuries, have ended. This is definitely something to truly be grateful for.

The true value of safety programs being noted

I remember wishing years ago, (in the commercial construction world), that general contractors would pay more attention to safety performance in the choosing of their subcontractors instead of just picking based on price. I recollect being frustrated at hearing we lost a project over a small amount of money when I distinctly remembered the other contractor suffering public, large-scale accidents and incidents.

The current world of ever-increasing safety data collection by potential customers, (while never fun to compile), is a sign of how far this has gone the other way.

Contractors in our business are literally removed from projects over incidents, and one point in a TRIR can make the difference in who gets a project, in spite of the monetary issues. High level managers realizing the true value and money saved due to an effective safety program is definitely something to be grateful for.

Increased value of the safety professional position

Finally, the increased attention on the matters above continues to make the career of a safety professional more valuable. More degree and certification programs seem to pop up all the time, and with that increased knowledge and professionalism comes an increased value to employers.

I have personally not seen a time in my career that I feel it is better to be a safety professional than right now. Some of the things I have written about in the past in a negative light are those same things that make a safety professional more valuable. With added value comes increased salary potential and job security. These are definitely things to be grateful for.

In closing, as we approach the time of the year that goals are set and progress is reviewed, let's look with a grateful eye at where we are safety wise and where we want to be both as companies and an industry.


Author: Daniel Erwin, Director of Safety, TNT Crane & Rigging

Source: ACT Magazine, December 2013 Issue

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