ASSP aims to remove barriers to safety and health

The American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the world’s oldest professional safety organization founded in 1911, is taking steps to improve diversity, equity and inclusion within the Society and throughout the occupational safety and health profession. The formation of a board-level task force this summer represents ASSP’s renewed commitment to principles of fairness, respect and equal opportunity for all. The new task force will be a critical part of ASSP’s ongoing journey toward a welcoming and transparent environment based on the highest ideals.

“Achieving widespread safety and equity requires a deep-seated commitment, and we have embarked on a journey to transform our culture by bringing together people with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives,” said ASSP President Deborah Roy, M.P.H., RN, COHN-S, CSP, CIT, FASSP, FAAOHN. “We must do more to challenge long-held assumptions and better understand how unconscious bias can influence decisions. By prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion, ASSP will grow stronger and help our members create safer and healthier work environments around the world.”

The task force will include members from ASSP’s common interest groups as well as other safety and health professionals who want to help advance the Society through inclusivity. Once formed, the dynamic group is expected to present a recommended strategy and action plan to the ASSP Board of Directors by January 2021 that helps define the Society’s goals for diversity, equity and inclusion. A separate staff team will address these issues internally.

“We can do more to honor our members’ deep insights and experiences by establishing trust, compassion and hope at every level of our organization,” said Roy, who will serve on the task force with CEO Jennifer McNelly. “It’s not about replacing the voices of ASSP, but elevating the voices that are not being heard.”

ASSP has worked to foster a culture that values and responds to the rich diversity of its staff and members, but the Society sees an opportunity to accelerate progress through more consistent and purposeful actions. Differences of race, ethnicity, class, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability and education should not only be accepted but widely celebrated. An organizational foundation built on diversity, equity and inclusion helps ASSP achieve its mission of supporting members and ensuring safer workplaces. It also helps the Society maintain a multidimensional staff and membership reflective of the entire profession.

“All ASSP members should be treated with respect and know their voices are being heard, particularly those who are frequently marginalized or silenced in other areas of their lives,” Roy said. “We must nurture a culture in which all stakeholders embrace our differences and have opportunities to learn and excel.”

ASSP issued a statement in June calling for social change to stop violence against black people and clarifying its support of the Black Lives Matter movement. ASSP has also created learning opportunities – such as a diversity and inclusion panel discussion at its virtual annual conference – to help safety professionals better understand how societal issues such as racism and systemic inequities impede career advancement, undermine workplace safety and disenfranchise workers.

“While these are all positive developments, we know this is only the beginning,” Roy said. “I look forward to experiencing the energy of our safety and health community as we work together on meaningful change.”

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