The American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, says he is alarmed that 13 workers are killed each day by work-related injuries, noting a total of 4,609 workers died in 2011 from on-the-job injuries.

“This is a serious problem that we find unacceptable,” said Pollock. “These incidents can be prevented. Effective management systems help identify safety and health issues before they result in injury, and establish prevention strategies that can protect all workers. Remember, these are 4,609 people who left for work in the morning and never returned home to their families.”

He said ASSE looks forward to continuing to work with the Obama administration and the administrators and directors the administration appoints to lead OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as well as other safety-related agencies such as the Chemical Safety Board.

“ASSE wants OSHA to assure the occupational safety and health community that they will have an appropriate balance between enforcement and cooperative efforts,” said Pollock. The list of priorities for ASSE is similar to that of the members of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, such as the updating of permissible exposure limits (PELs), funding and recognition for NIOSH and OSHA’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

ASSE wants OSHA to move forward on a risk-based approach to regulation, also known as the Injury and Illness Prevention Program or I2P2. Pollock said that in the least, ASSE hopes OSHA updates its guidelines for these programs and acts as a leader in helping those companies who do not use programs that focus on a risk-based approach learn to use them.

“Every company should enjoy the positive benefits of a meaningful safety and health system that our best employers have long understood,” Pollock added. “And though we fully understand the limits on OSHA’s ability to do so, as safety and health professionals we have to remain committed to seeing that OSHA does everything it can to keep abreast of the widely accepted voluntary consensus standards our members use every day.”

Pollock warned of the dangers of what he called “a two-tiered system of safety in this country, one that our best companies follow based on the science of today and another system based on the science of decades ago.  All workers, no matter the size or capabilities of their employer, should have the same protections.”

ASSE, along with the American Industrial Hygiene Association is encouraging Congress to engage in a meaningful dialogue that can achieve long-overdue agreement on issues like moving forward on updating OSHA’s decades-old permissible exposure limits (PELs); make it easier for OSHA to make use of voluntary consensus standards; encouraging employer commitment to safety through third-party audits; putting OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) into law; and, making sure NIOSH is given an organizational independence that fits its unique role as the only resource for occupational safety and health research and education.       

“ASSE also looks forward to working with the 113th Congress and all elected leaders to succeed in making sure that all employees who go to work leave work injury and illness free to return home safely to their families every day,” said Pollock.