Where Are We?

In safety today, the number of practitioners is estimated to be between 75,000 and 125,000. It is a very heterogeneous group and includes both degreed and non-degreed practitioners, some with advanced and graduate degrees from a wide range of disciplines; from accounting to zoology. About one third of the ASSE membership has an accredited certification (CSP, CIH, CHP, CHMM, CPEA, etc.)

The trend however, is for those entering the profession to increasingly be degreed many of which are in occupational safety and health. Most of these individuals have expressed an interest in, and many are currently working on accredited certifications. The number of members with accredited certifications has been increasing.

How Did We Get Here?

Rather than start the history of safety from earliest records (Hammurabi, Bernardo Ramazzini, etc) let's start with 1911 and the founding of ASSE in New York City as the United Society of Casualty Inspectors, with less than 50 members. This period of time saw an increased interest in safety because of catastrophic events, namely the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and increased interest at the state level in worker compensation insurance. Subsequently, World War I and later World War II brought increased attention to workplace safety because many women entered the work force with those regularly engaged in dangerous occupations were now on the battlefield.

In December 1970 the Williams - Steiger legislation that Richard Nixon signed and we have come to know as OSHA, created yet again a high level of interest in safety. In the early years OSHA sometimes focused more on the actual standard and the peculiarities of such standards, rather than on what later became emphasized and, called "performance oriented" standards, where effectiveness of the employee safety and health effort was the chief concern. Employers too, initially looked at OSHA compliance as the goal, and later understood compliance was a "minimum" rather than the goal, and began to emphasize beyond compliance issue - organizational excellence.

The early and mid 1990's witnessed a number of SH&E organizations jockeying for position and the professionals increasingly looking for recognition they believed well deserved. Several pieces of legislation and regulation impacting safety and health professionals drew attention to the fact that there was no easy or acceptable way to identify the SH&E professional competent to perform activities and tasks required in the regulations. Increasingly, professional groups began trying to convince legislators and regulators that their professional "certification" was an objective indicator of SH&E competency in areas where the legislation and regulation required technical skills and abilities.

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