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Founded in 1911, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. Based in Des Plaines, Illinois, ASSE has more than 32,000
occupational safety, health and environmental (SH&E) professional members who manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and the environment in all industries, government, labor and education. ASSE is a 501 (c) (6)
not for profit organization.
ASSE was founded on October 14, 1911 in New York City as the United Society of Casualty Inspectors (USCI) with 62 members. This was just after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City fire that occurred on March 25, 1911, when 146 female garment workers died – many in the factory and many who jumped from the ninth floor to their deaths onto the concrete over 100 feet below rather than burn alive. The factory was housed in the Asch building in New York City. At the time of the fire the factory fire exit doors were locked and the doors that were not locked only opened inwards and were effectively held shut by the onrush of workers trying to escape the fire. At the time of the fire the only safety measures available for the workers were 27 buckets of water.
Further hindering their escape was the fact that the ninth floor fire escape in the Asch Building led nowhere and collapsed when used. Factory workers waiting for help at the windows for the rescue workers watched helplessly as the firefighters found their ladders were too short to reach the stranded workers and the water from the hoses could not reach the top floors. As the clothing materials fed the fire workers tried to escape anyway they could.
Though most people were outraged with the death of 146 garment workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, mostly young girls, there were no regulations in effect that would have saved their lives. The fire did lead to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and the Women’s Trade Union League. It also affected the onlookers who watched helplessly as the workers jumped out the windows to their deaths, some in groups, that spring day. Frances Perkins, the first female cabinet member and Secretary of Labor, began her commitment to workplace safety and health soon after witnessing the tragic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. The Department of Labor building in Washington, D.C. is named after her.
Another example of dangerous workplaces during the time was the fact that prior to the establishment of the Bureau of Mines by Congress, 13,228 miners were killed in U.S. coal mines between 1906-1911.
In 1914 the USCI name was changed to the present American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and headquarters were established in New York City. Information about ASSE and its benefits spread by word of mouth as more states passed workers compensation laws and insurance companies hired more inspectors. As the SH&E profession grew over the decades so to did the practitioners’ commitment to increasing workplace safety resulting in an increased public awareness of occupational safety, health and environmental issues and their impact on everyone’s quality of life.
In 1924 the first two chapters received their charters: New York City (then known as the Metropolitan Chapter) and Boston.
In 2011, 100 years after its founding, ASSE has more than 34,000 members who work across all industries around the world protecting people, improving business and safeguarding the environment. The Society relocated to Chicago in 1924, moved to Park Ridge, IL,in 1967 and has been headquartered in Des Plaines, IL, since 1985.
ASSE is guided by a 16-member Board of Directors, which consists of 8 regional vice presidents; three council vice presidents; Society president, president-elect, senior vice president, vice president of finance and executive director. ASSE has 17 practice specialties, 151 chapters, 28 sections and 58 student sections.
Setting The Standard For Safety
ASSE is secretariat for several American National Standards Institute﴾ANSI) committees and projects. ASSE organizes the committees that develop and maintain the standard(s﴿, ensures that the revision process is timely and in accordance with ANSI procedures and publishes the final product of the consensus process. ASSE serves as secretariat for the following:
ASSE Foundation Mission Statement
The American Society of Safety Engineers Foundation, established by and in partnership with the American Society of Safety Engineers, generates funding and provides resources for scholarship, applied research, academic accreditation, and related academic initiatives in order to advance the safety, health, and environmental profession.
The Foundation currently supports these initiatives:
Disrupting an underground utility line during construction can be inconvenient, expensive and even dangerous, but it is easy to avoid. Before starting an excavation or trench, putting in a drywell, installing an in ground pool or even planting a tree, find out the location of underground utility lines and cables. Contact the New York City/Long Island One Call Center at 1-800-272-4480 for this information before you dig.
The requirement to "Call Before You Dig" can be found in New York State General Business Law article 36 and Public Service Law section 119B.