Q&A with new ASSE/ASSP president
Rixio Medina oversees transition to the organization’s new name
The American Society of Safety Engineers has changed its name to the American Safety of Safety Professionals. What is the difference between a safety engineer and a safety professional?
Engineer is quite limiting in the world of safety, it’s only the technical approach, the specific resolution of engineering problems. The word “professional” is more all-embracing. Safety is such a wide field of practice -- psychology, risk management, insurance, fire protection, environmental — ASSP allows us to be more inclusive. We still have a practice specialty for engineering. We will not be getting completely out of safety engineering. But we want to focus on the protection of people, property and the environment — not only human capital but physical assets and preventing events that can be damaging to the environment.
What is the current membership count of ASSP?
We’re now at 38,000 members. Maybe the name change has helped drive growth.
Will the new name spur growth in membership?
We are working on several fronts. We’re working hard to bring into the society young professionals and students, early in their careers, and new professionals. A big effort is underway to help people in the military.
We are seeing an increase in membership already. We heard over the years that some people had a reservation: how can I join a safety engineering group when I’m not an engineer?
OSHA (at press time) has been without leadership at the top since Jan 20, 2017, going on 1.5 years. What impact do you think this has on the safety profession?
Of course it is a concern. Early last year we met with the leadership of OSHA and we presented a document on our views on what areas the administration can tackle. This includes finding solutions for workplace fatalities, transportation accidents; consider expanding third-party auditing; and enhancing consensus standards and negotiated rulemaking. We feel strongly OSHA must provide coverage to public workers. There are higher injury rates among public workers; the public sector needs the same emphasis on safety that is placed on the private ate sector.
Are voluntary standards like ISO 45001 becoming more important to professionals than OSHA standards?
We believe those voluntary national consensus standard have the most up-to-date information. OSHA has a very simple management system voluntary standard; it doesn’t compare with ISO 45001 or ANSI Z10. Those standards reflect the state of the art. It is the same with fall protection, electrical safety, machine safety -- these voluntary standards reflect the current consensus in our field. The leaders in our field are using these consensus standards to find additional improvements. We’re working very hard in this area with ANSI and will continue to do so.
What do you want to accomplish in your year at the helm of ASSP?
This is a transition year, let’s concentrate on our four pillars: membership community -- how to help it grow; developing state-of-the-art education; standard development; and advocacy. Let’s enhance relations with other stakeholders such as OSHA and AIHA. We’re attacking common goals and we can obtain more with them rather than working alone. We believe the future is bright. We have to bring on board the students and professionals in the pipeline. The name change creates the right environment for the profession.