From the disastrous 1911 factory fire that led to its founding to the successes and challenges of the present and future, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has produced a video that tells the story of work safety and tragedy through the decades, and why we are safer today due to the efforts of safety professionals.
“It truly is a feel good profession. It’s hard work. It can be challenging. I think people can get discouraged, but at the end of the day you are helping people return home to their families safely, you are helping them earn a living and you are helping them to do it safely. And I don’t think it gets any better than that,” Sandy Smith, of Cleveland, OH, ASSE member and magazine editor discussing the importance of the occupational safety and health profession in the film.
Titled,"American Society of Safety Engineers -- Celebrating 100 Years of Safety,"the film takes the audience through the history of work safety, beginning with the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City that claimed the lives of 146 people -- many of them jumping to their deaths from upper floors after finding exit doors locked and fire escapes collapsed. ASSE was founded just months after that horrific event and now has more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members located worldwide committed to protecting people, property and the environment.
ASSE produced the documentary as a way to commemorate its 100th anniversary and to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety, noting in a recent press release that many people are not aware of the decades of work that went into developing and improving safety systems to prevent on-the-job injuries and helping businesses. ASSE members and non-members are featured throughout the film discussing the past and the future of work safety, whether in the office, the manufacturing plant, on the road, in the air, in the farm fields and more.
In the film, ASSE President Darryl C. Hill, Ph.D., CSP, of MI, observes: “One area that I’ve seen the profession change over the years is that it is beginning to focus on thebusinessof safety. Whereas also demonstrating to the employer that safety is just not compliance or regulatory driven; that you as a profession or professional have to demonstrate the financial benefits to an organization.”
Lawrence J.H. Schulze reflects, in the film, on the personal satisfaction of a safety career. “I don’t know if its genetics because I’m a third generation safety engineer, but I know I’ve made a difference in the past and I know I can make a difference in the future and that’s a big driving factor,” said Schulze, Ph.D., PE., CPE, past ASSE Gulf Coast chapter president and associate professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Houston. “It’s a great joy when you know you can make a difference in somebody’s life.”
The documentary also looks to the challenges of the future.
While millions of people leave work each day in the U.S. injury- and illness- free, 12 people a day are dying from on-the-job injuries. According to OSHA, workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths cost the U.S. $170 billion annually. This does not even take into account the untold grief suffered by family and friends.
For every dollar invested in a safety program, four to six dollars are saved because of the prevention or decrease in injuries and illnesses; medical and workers compensation costs, absenteeism, turnover and production delays are reduced. Employee morale rises.
“This is not only our anniversary year, but the kickoff, the launch pad to the next 100 years,” ASSE President-Elect Terrie Norris, CSP, ARM, of Long Beach, CA, said. “We have much more to do.”
The Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Its members lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, health care and education. To view the video please go towww.asse.org/ASSECenturyofSafety . For more information please go towww.asse.org.