Led by Canada’s Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) this campaign was first launched in June of 1997, when an agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico was reached, with the goal to promote workplace safety within the boundaries of the three nations. Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Week had been being observed for ten years prior to the beginning of North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) joined with the CSSE in 2002, to promote public awareness of occupational safety, health, and the environment during this important week. Other groups that are partners in this NAOSH Week are the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), Threads of Life, OSHA, Association of Occupational Health Professionals in Healthcare (AOHP), and partners in Mexico. Threads of Life is a national registered charity dedicated to supporting families along their journey of healing who have suffered from a workplace fatality, life-altering illness or occupational disease. Their mission is to help families heal through a community of support and to promote the elimination of life-altering workplace injuries, illnesses, and death.
This years NAOSH theme is “Celebrating a Century of Safety.” The ASSE is not only celebrating their 100th anniversary, but it is also the 100th anniversary of one of the most terrible workplace disasters in United States history – the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. In 1911, 146 men and women died in the Asch building in New York City. When a fire began on one of the top floors of this building, workers rushed to escape; however, the doors were locked. There were no fire sprinklers, even though the fire sprinkler head was patented in 1872. There were no fire safety or prevention products or programs at the factory. Because the fire escape had melted and broken off, the elevator operator tried to save as many people as he could, but as the fire spread, many jumped to their deaths to the street below. Some even jumped into the elevator shaft. Fire department ladders couldn’t reach the top floors of the building. Soon after this disaster, public outrage led to a wave of new worker protection rules and regulations. The ASSE was founded in New York City, and many said it was the beginning of our modern safety movement. Since that time, ASSE and its’ more than 33,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members continue to work in all industries and their communities to ensure that another Triangle Factory fire never occurs again.
NAOSH sponsors activities to support work safety and educate the public worldwide by members and organizations. Events such as panel discussions on the history of safety, preventing distracted driving, recognizing winners from around the world of the kids’ “safety-on-the-job” poster contest, are just some of the tools that are used to enhance workplace safety worldwide. The AOHP, a national association that represents thousands of healthcare workers whose vision is to be the defining resource and leading advocate for occupational health and safety in healthcare, states that NAOSH week “not only helps us keep our workers safe and contributes positively to a business’ bottom line, but makes sure there are smiles at the end of the day when that worker returns home safe and sound to their family.”
Too many persons are dying from on-the-job injuries. These organizations and others are working to help prevent injuries and illnesses in industries worldwide. Members of the groups have distributed catastrophe preparedness information, free teen worker safety and preventing roadway crash brochures, developed teen worker safety courses, helped Habitat for Humanity, held personal protective equipment (PPE) fashion shows, donated PPE and much more.
NAOSH Week is observed the first full week of May each year. On the Wednesday of NAOSH Week, Occupational Safety and Health Professional Day has been observed since 2007. The American Society of Safety Engineers and Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, along with other members from Canada, the U.S., and Mexico encourages employers, employees, and the public to realize the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home, and in the community. We salute all those who work diligently to educate and promote safety in the workplace.
Sources: Worksite News (Canada), American Society of Safety Engineers, Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety