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For Immediate Release,
Contact:
Kathy Lane
Communications Director
(630) 775-2307
kathy.lane@nsc.org
 
Workers’ Memorial Day:  Opportunity for CEOs and Entrepreneurs
 
Every year on April 28, Workers’ Memorial Day is observed around the world to mourn men and women killed on the job. Most people are surprised to learn that 2 million employees around the world lose their lives each year as a result of work related injuries and disease (International Labor Organization). More people are killed at work every year than in war. 
 
In the United States, workplace fatalities have been reduced from an estimated 50,000 in 1913 to 3,905 in 2011 (Injury Facts®). Although the U.S. represents approximately 15% of the world’s total GDP, we incur only 0.2% of the world’s job related fatalities. For this, we’re thankful to committed leaders in government, industry, labor and other organizations. Unfortunately that’s no consolation if your loved one is killed. 
 
Workers’ Memorial Day reminds us of the sacred trust people and their families place in their employer.  At minimum, we owe employees physically safe and healthy environments. In cases where the site is intrinsically dangerous, we owe employees the best protective equipment, training and leadership support. 
 
We need employers—large and small—to assume full responsibility for the health and safety of their employees. No one should ever go to work and lose their life. Equally, no one should be exposed to substances at work which have lethal or disabling long term effects. In honor of Workers’ Memorial Day, we appeal to every employer to re-examine your environment and make the investments necessary to eliminate physical hazards. Your employees deserve it.
 
For CEOs, we recommend adding safety as a competitive strategy. Studies have proven that safety excellence correlates to improved, sustainable financial performance. It takes a lot of courage for a Fortune 500 CEO to begin an investor call by reporting safety statistics. But the few who do that know you can’t be world class in safety until all your other systems and processes are world class as well. (We define “world class” as 10 times better than your industry average.) A poor safety record is an indicator that an operation lacks discipline, and that shows up in every other area including the income statement. 
 
More than anyone else in the company, the CEO sets the tone and priorities. CEOs who speak to their people about profits, productivity and financial statistics are the norm. Their companies deliver average safety performance. By contrast, CEOs who hold the well-being of their employees as a top priority are rare, but their people would move mountains for them. Safety is a subset of well-being, as is paying them well, treating them with dignity and respect and giving them honorable work.
 
For entrepreneurs, opportunities abound to create solutions that transcend the gap between safety and productivity. Safety and productivity are not mutually exclusive. To be competitive over the long term we must excel at both.    
 
The fields of robotics, material sciences and automation, to name a few, will eliminate many of the riskiest tasks currently assigned to people. One hundred years from now people will be repulsed by the way we do things—the same as we are repulsed by pictures of children working in coal mines 100 years ago.
 
The National Safety Council believes every one of the 2 million worker fatalities is preventable. Through its Campbell Institute, NSC provides a venue for thought-leaders to stimulate and challenge each other.  We are re-imagining how work will look in the future. We would love to have you, along with all of your employees, join us on the Journey to Safety Excellence. Please visit us at nsc.org to find out how you can get started on your Journey.
 
On Workers’ Memorial Day 2013, we pause to extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all the families who have suffered a work-related fatality. 
 
Kent McElhattan
National Safety Council, Chairman
Industrial Scientific, Chairman
 
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