In Praise of NSC's Moonshot

I applaud the NSC's chief executive and the council for setting this ambitious goal and keeping it on the front burner at every opportunity.

Be honest, can we really eliminate preventable deaths in our lifetime?

Speaking in Fort Worth on March 5 at the Texas Safety Conference & Expo, Deborah A.P. Hersman, the National Safety Council's president and CEO, focused her opening remarks on this challenge, which NSC has set as a goal and rightly calls a "moonshot." Hersman used the word again during her short speech—appropriately, given the setting in the same state where NASA's Johnson Space Center is located.

She asked us audience members for a show of hands. How many of us believed preventable workplace deaths can be eliminated in our lifetime? (Quite a few hands, but not mine, went up.) How many believed preventable deaths in our own companies can be eliminated? (More hands.) How many believed preventable deaths in our own families can be? (Here's where I raised my hand.)

Leaving aside that our lifetimes aren't all of the same length, it's a valid question for this community of professionals to consider. The USA is at an all-time high for preventable deaths and on average about 10 workers die every day in this country, said Hersman, who touched on the alarming crisis of prescription opioid abuse and also texting while driving in her talk. She said preliminary numbers indicate U.S. highway fatalities during 2016 rose by 6 percent nationwide from the year before.

I would love to think all preventable deaths can be eliminated while I'm still here to see it. We have a very long way to go to accomplish that, however, and at the moment it seems we're losing ground, not gaining it.

But I applaud the NSC's chief executive and the council for setting this ambitious goal and keeping it on the front burner at every opportunity. "Getting to zero isn't impossible," she assured us. "It just hasn't been done yet."

This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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