ASSE Urges N.Y. Gov. to Keep Critical Safety Program

February 17, 2005

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and its New York members are calling on Gov. Pataki not to eliminate a program that has reportedly been effective in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses, the Hazard Abatement Board and its Occupational Safety and Health Training Program.

According to ASSE, Gov. Pataki’s recent budget proposal would effectively eliminate this program by providing less than half the funding currently available to continue safety and health training.

Founded in 1911 in New York, the now Des Plaines, Illinois-based ASSE has more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members, with around 1400 members in New York.

“Without proper training, the chance of being injured or killed on the job is much greater,” ASSE President Gene Barfield, said. “And if you look at the stats, New York has the fourth highest number of on-the-job deaths in the U.S. The people of New York need this program.”

In calling for the Governor to keep the 19-year-old Occupational Safety and Health Training Program, ASSE members stated that, after a reorganization several years ago, the program has run well with tight oversight and active outreach to the business community. Training classes offered by the program including 10-hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) classes, PIT training, HazCom, Flagging and Work Zone Safety, and Workplace Violence have been successfully conducted under program grants.

The program has provided training about workplace hazards and how to eliminate them to hundreds of thousands of working people throughout the state of New York.

Members are concerned that a major void will be left if this program is eliminated. “As a safety, health and environmental professional whose job it is to help protect workers, this program works and is necessary,” Barfield said. “Lack of or less effective training ultimately means more injuries and illnesses and most likely higher workers compensation insurance rates.”

In a letter to Gov. Pataki, Barfield urged him to reconsider the proposal to eliminate the Hazard Abatement Board that would reduce New York’s commitment to the Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program.

Barfield noted, “ASSE’s safety, health and environmental (SH+E) professionals are responsible for identifying hazards and developing appropriate controls for those hazards and protecting the safety and health of workers. One of the key tools they have to accomplish their goal of preventing workplace injuries, illnesses and property damage, is through training. This program is a vitally important for New York businesses and workers. It helps both the workers and businesses acquire the tools necessary to recognize, eliminate and appropriately control workplace safety and health hazards, thereby helping prevent injury, illness and property damage.

“If the program is eliminated, our members believe that New York’s employers will experience more injuries among their employees, increased lost work days, and ultimately higher costs in workers’ compensation, health care costs and other related expenses.

“Not only have workers benefited from this program, but employers, too, have shared in the benefits of this investment,” Barfield added.

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