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Where's management's commitment?

"Do you believe that corporate management is committed to workplace safety and believes that it contributes positively to the bottom line?"

That was the question posed to American Society of Safety Engineers members in a poll that ran on ASSE's Web site for one week. About 5,000 voters were almost equally divided in their opinions.

In all, 51.2 percent said "no" and 48.8 percent voted "yes."

Experts agree that smart corporations recognize the immense benefit of developing and implementing effective safety programs. But in the minds of many safety pros, companies don't get it.

The cost of preventing work-related injuries and illnesses is far less than the cost of correcting them. ASSE estimates that for every $1 invested in a safety and health program, $4 to $6 is saved because injuries, illnesses and fatalities decline, and medical costs and workers' compensation costs decrease.

Effective safety programs also reduce absenteeism, lower turnover, increase productivity, increase employee morale and reinforce a positive brand image.

ASSE says its "Instapoll" question is very time-specific. Managers might be committed at the moment, or however long it takes to address an OSHA citation, but later that commitment often falls to other more pressing issues at the moment.

ASSE isn't surprised by this, saying in a poll summary that corporate managers report to a board of directors whose attention spans may be equally as short or shorter. The group says now that CEOs and Boards are being held accountable for business behavior (Enron, Tyco, etc.), it may be time to target them on EHS issues, too.

"If you mean MY corporate execs...that would be yes, they do; If you mean corp execs in general. . .that would sadly be 'hell no,' said one voter, voicing a popular sentiment.

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