Each year, thousands of businesses and people worldwide join with the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), and its more than 33,000 occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional members to raise awareness about the importance of preventing work injuries and illnesses during North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week. This year’s NAOSH Week, May 1 to 7, is themed “Celebrating a Century of Safety” in honor of ASSE’s 100th Anniversary. Occupational Safety and Health Professional (OSHP) Day will be celebrated on May 4.
Joined by the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Alliance Program participants and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Belt Partnership, ASSE and its members will sponsor events large and small aimed at spreading the word about being safe at work.
The NAOSH 2011 theme is “Celebrating a Century of Safety.” This is not only the 100th anniversary of ASSE, which sponsors NAOSH annually, but also the 100th anniversary of one of the most horrific workplace disasters in U.S. history. On March 25, 1911, 146 women and men died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Asch building in New York City. That Saturday, when a fire started on one of the top floors of the Asch building, workers rushed to escape. However, the doors were locked. There were no fire sprinklers even though many New England manufacturing facilities were using fire sprinklers as a safety precaution during that time. The fire sprinkler head was patented in 1872. There were no fire safety or prevention products or programs at the Triangle Factory. The fire escape had melted and broken off. The elevator operator tried desperately to save as many people as he could, but as the fire spread many jumped to their deaths to the street below with their clothes on fire. Many jumped into the elevator shaft hoping to survive. They did not.
Fire department ladders could not reach the top floors of the building and thousands of New Yorkers lined the street and helplessly watched in horror as the workers jumped to their deaths to the street below. One of those onlookers was Frances Perkins who later became the first female U.S. cabinet member when she was appointed to serve as the U.S. Secretary of Labor.
Soon after, public outrage led to a wave of new worker protection rules and regulations. Seven months later the American Society of Safety Engineers was founded in New York City, some say it was the beginning of the modern safety movement. Since that time ASSE and its occupational safety, health and environmental professional members continue to work in all industries and in their communities to make sure another Triangle Factory fire never occurs again.
NAOSH activities to support work safety and educate the public are held worldwide by individual members and organizations. NAOSH kick-off events and educational programs are scheduled for Washington, D.C., this May 1 and 2, with ASSE members, federal and state officials, winners of the 9th annual ASSE kids “safety-on-the-job” poster contest and more.
The kick-off events in D.C. will be held at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Capitol, the National Zoo and the National Gallery of Art. The events will feature panel discussions on the history of safety, preventing distracted driving, teen worker safety and recognizing the young winners of both the ASSE and FMCSA art contests.
Past NAOSH Week events have included fleet safety classes, ergonomic awareness events, a workplace-oriented one-day free preparedness Web Expo, update on mining safety programs, a laser safety seminar, roadway work zone safety programs, corporate workplace safety and health days, teen worker safety programs, city and state work safety fairs, symposiums on a variety of topics, projects to assist charities, personal protective equipment (PPE), fashion shows, and much more.
For more information, visit www.aasse.org.