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Don't Ignore Workplace Safety in Tough Economic Times, ASSE States


ANCHORAGE, AK (October 23, 2009) – “Workplace safety processes must be in place at all times,” American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Past President Warren K. Brown, CSP, ARM, CSHMM, said today. “They are even more critical during business downturns.” Brown is referring to recent reports of some companies and municipalities cutting safety processes hoping to reduce costs. Citizens in Alaska are also concerned, especially as the Assembly of the Municipality of Anchorage considers cutting safety positions and programs aimed at preventing injuries and fatalities as part of the budgeting process.

“If companies or municipalities believe they will save money by reducing or ignoring safety for their workers, customers, and communities they do business in, they are mistaken,” Brown said. “The ongoing positive results are in and have been for companies and communities that have a strong safety culture and continually invest in and implement effective safety processes. Not only does their bottom line benefit positively, but their company/city reputation stays intact, employees stay safe and healthy reducing health care, workers compensation, training and turnover costs not to mention keeping customers, residents, the communities they do business in, vendors and employees happy. Safety is good business.”

The Alaska Chapter of the ASSE was founded in 1974 and has grown ever since. It serves most of the State of Alaska (excluding the Fairbanks area where the Midnight Sun Chapter is active) and has an active student section at the University of Alaska. ASSE members, occupational safety, health and environmental professionals, work in all industries and are committed to protecting people, property and the environment.

Members of the 98-year-old ASSE caution employers against cutting back on workplace safety in time of economic difficulty. ASSE member Laura Comstock said, “Not only this, but some safety related purchases and testing can be deferred, but other purchases, such as those for employee personal protective equipment (PPE) like hardhats, safety glasses and respirators, are critical to operations.”

It is especially important for companies to show support for their employee safety during challenging economic times, Brown noted. “Employee morale may be low and employees may be carrying additional workloads, such as working additional hours or doing unfamiliar tasks due to cutbacks,” he said. “In order to remain viable long-term, a company must maintain a solid safety process even through difficult times. The most successful companies in the long term also have the strongest safety performance.

“We realize these are tough times, but during economic down-turns, employers seeking to cut expenses may target variable operating costs such as travel, training and safety,” Brown said. “Money cut from safety processes now could have an enormous cost later; this can be from injury and health care costs, escalating workers compensation costs, fines, lost production time, employee morale, or worst of all, employee injury or even death. There are better and smarter ways to protect the bottom line.”

Investing in safety pays and contributes positively to a company’s bottom line. Businesses spend about $170 billion a year on costs associated with workplace injuries and illnesses and pay almost $1 billion every week to injured employees and their medical providers. In addition, a recent investment firm study in Australia showed valuation links between workplace safety and health factors and investment performance. It found that companies who did not adequately manage workplace safety issues underperformed those that did.

Comstock also reminds employers, “When considering training reductions, some safety related training is driven by regulation, is time sensitive and cannot be delayed. Safety training related savings can be generated by streamlining and implementing simple solutions including using online or electronic safety training services, rather than face-to-face classroom safety training.”

“We need to work together during these difficult times, but reducing or ignoring workplace safety should not be a strategic or budget option,” Brown said. “The costs – both tangible and intangible – are far too high and hard to recoup.”

Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the largest and oldest professional safety organization and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. For more information please go to http://alaska.asse.org/ or www.asse.org.

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