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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Workers’ Memorial Day 2013, we pause to extend our heartfelt thoughts and
prayers to all the families who have suffered a work-related fatality.
National Safety Council, Chairman
Industrial Scientific, Chairman