Workplace safety expos used to be the stuff of hard hats and other safety hardware – personal protective equipment. The market was blue collar. It still is, with construction, manufacturing and utility workers prime PPE users. But a walk through the 24 aisles of this year’s ASSP Safety21 expo finds many vendors with products and services aimed not at protecting the worker’s body but increasing their safety knowledge.

Amazon is the prime expo sponsor – a tech company, not a safety hard goods supplier. Tech-oriented companies outnumber PPE suppliers, with the exception of a number of glove, fall protection and FR clothing vendors. 

The emphasis on the expo floor is on building knowledge. “Increase safety data-driven decisions” announces one booth. “Create a world class safety culture,” is the signage on another booth. One vendor goes by the name Another offers coaching systems. One specializes in root cause analysis. A number offer training courses and software. One is named “My Safety Profiler.”

The expo is evidence that workplace safety has come around to talent development. OSHA compliance is now a 50-year-old market. Old news. Few new regulations. With labor shortages in many industries, the notion that employees are “assets” is no longer a matter of lip service. The safety marketplace in increasingly directed at boosting the knowledge value of those “assets.” Of course smarter workers mean less incidents and injuries.