Safety leadership starts with CEOs, said National Safety Council President Alan McMillan in a speech last month at the National Press Club in Washington. McMillan now highlights what he calls "CEOs Who Get It" — corporate leaders who understand that excellence in safety in their organizations begins with them.

McMillan's latest example is Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Last year, the NSC organized a blue-ribbon panel at the request of Rumsfeld that evaluated safety leadership and programs in the Department of Defense.

"One result of the Secretary's leadership on this issue is his recent directive that DOD must reduce its injury rates by 50 percent," said McMillan.

"We must also raise the interest of corporate leaders in addressing motor vehicle safety for their employees," said McMillan. He urged corporate leaders to provide periodic driver training to their employees that drive as part of their job — and establish policies requiring their employees to wear seatbelts while at work in motor vehicles.

"I believe that CEOs who get it should also emphasize to their employees that a driver's first responsibility is the safe operation of their vehicle and that best practice is to not be distracted by using electronic devices, including cell phones, while driving."

CEO leadership is not confined to safety at work, said McMillan. Nine times more workers died last year of injuries suffered off the job than on the job, he reported. Sixty-five percent of the 95,000 people that died in preventable incidents off the job last year were workers and their family members.

"Employers have a regulatory and moral imperative to reduce these injuries and deaths. But they also have a business imperative. It is good business to address off-the-job safety issues because injuries and deaths to employees and their family members affect absenteeism, productivity and the enormous healthcare costs.

“CEOs who get it are educating their workers about a full range of safety issues — at work, at home, on the road and in public places," said McMillan.