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Safety associations team up to give safety voice in global sustainability reporting

By Mari-Len De Guzman
| www.cos-mag.com

DENVER — Steps are being taken to develop metrics specific to organizational health and safety performance for global sustainability reporting, officials from the American Society of Safety Engineers have reported.

International safety associations, through the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS), will participate in the OHS working group to be established by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), an international agency that develops and disseminates guidelines for corporate global sustainability and social responsibility reporting.

The working group will review and develop performance indicators for occupational health and safety to help build the content for the new GRI guidelines.

Tom Cecich, vice-president of professional affairs at the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) said safety associations such as the ASSE, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, American Industrial Hygiene Association and the United Kingdom’s Institution of Occupational Safety and Health are finalizing the proposed metrics to be presented when the GRI health and safety working group convenes at the end of June.

“(Safety professionals) need to organize a global community to establish a global message around sustainability,” Cecich said. He presented at a session entitled,

Measuring Safety and Health Sustainability: The Development of Standardized Global OSH Metrics,

at the ASSE Safety 2012 Professional Development Conference and Exposition. 

Although the existing GRI reporting framework does contain safety and health indicators, they are “not very good indicators of safety performance” in its current form, he said.

Through participation in the GRI OHS working group, the CSHS aims to improve these indicators for the next version of the GRI guidelines. These new indicators aim to better gauge an organization’s health and safety performance in their sustainability reporting.

CSHS will propose at least six health and safety metrics to the working group, said Cecich.

The first metric being proposed is the lost-time injury and illness rate, as well as fatalities, over a five-year period covering all employees.

Only about 50 per cent of companies reporting on sustainability today are reporting about their lost-time injuries and illnesses, said Cecich. The goal of the proposed metric is to get 100 per cent reporting of injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

The second proposed metric is lost-time injury, illnesses and fatalities for contractor employees. Currently, roughly only 25 per cent report these statistics about their contractors, according to Cecich.

“To be viewed as a sustainable organization with high commitment to safety and health, they have to look at their contractors,” he said.

The challenge with the first and second proposed metrics is the fact there is currently no standardized global system for reporting injury and illness rates, said Cecich. However, the United States and the European Union have already begun talks about standardizing injury and illness reporting. Representatives from these nations are set to meet in July to discuss this further, according to Cecich.

The third proposed metric is the percentage of owned or leased work locations that have implemented an occupational health and safety management system that meets recognized standards.

Auditing these OHS management systems is important, as well, and covered in the fourth proposed metric. This metric looks for percentage of owned or leased work locations with OHS management systems that have been audited by an independent third party, Cecich said.

Another current problem the existing GRI framework does not address is reporting around health and safety activities in the supply chain. Many organizations that have embraced corporate social responsibility and sustainability are now evaluating their supply chain partners based on their sustainability efforts and performance, said Dennis Hudson, director of professional affairs at the ASSE, and Cecich’s co-presenter at the conference.

The fifth proposed metric is the percentage of direct or first tier suppliers’ facilities in developing countries that were audited for compliance with safety and health standards.

Under current practice, Cecich said, about 50 per cent of organizations report something about health and safety in their supply chain.

Another metric the international community of safety professionals would like to see in the new version of the GRI framework has to do with worker engagement in health and safety at the workplace.

“There needs to be some kind of metric in the global marketplace that measures around worker involvement about safety and health,” Cecich said. This should include a measure of employee representation in health and safety and the ability of workers to raise concerns about safety.

The CSHS is still trying to determine the best metric that will best measure employee engagement, Cecich said.

From only 26 corporations reporting on sustainability in 2006, the number of organizations embracing sustainability grew to 3,000 in 2008, according to Hudson. Of the 250 largest global companies, 95 per cent are now reporting sustainability and half of them have reported they see financial value in it.

“(The safety community wants) to make sure that safety is a consideration in the sustainability movement,” Hudson said. “We want to be a voice in the business community, influence decisions… (and) be a thought leader in all sustainability-related initiatives.”

The working group has started accepting applications for membership and will soon deliberate on the health and safety indicators to be included in the new GRI framework. Public comment on the working group’s recommendations will be held between August and October.

For more information on the proposed health and safety indicators and the GRI working group, visit the

Centre for Safety and Health Sustainability website.

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