Pic1: Executives from Washington Group International, CITGO Petroleum, Duke Energy and Weyerhaeuser spoke of safety as a core value.

ASSE’s Safety 2006, June 11-14 in Seattle, was a hit. Attendance records were broken (3,941 attendees), conference sessions were well attended, and expo vendors seemed giddy with the quality of sales leads. The show was high energy. Not a lot of decaf being consumed in this coffee-laden town. Here are some observations and notes from Safety 2006…

The power of culture

Culture seemed to be king at this conference, with a number of sessions dedicated to helping attendees implement change. “Respect the power of culture,” exhorted Stan Slap, noted corporate strategist and a keynote speaker at the ASSE event. Addressing a standing-room-only crowd, Slap pointed out “deadly sins” of strategic implementation, which include:
  • Never try to bluff, bribe or bully the culture. (Be honest and open with people.)
  • Explain what isn’t changing. (There’s always the fear of the unknown.)
  • Leadership vacuum. (Commitment from leadership is necessary.)
  • Big kickoff/little payoff. (Don’t start out with lots of hoopla and let things fizzle out.)
  • Complicated communication. (Communication must be heartfelt and simple.)

    Steven Simon, Ph.D., of Culture Change Consultants, Inc., which worked with GE on a successful culture change project, told an ASSE workshop audience that there are four critical factors for culture change: 1) strong EHS leadership; 2) strong focus on culture; 3) partnership between union and company; and 4) solid infrastructure to sustain the culture change until it is driven by the grass roots.


    A common thread among several speakers who discussed culture was the idea of impassioned leadership. Stan Slap said emotional commitment from leadership is needed for safety to succeed. Leadership, said Steve Farber, president of Extreme Leadership, Inc. and a keynote speaker at the conference, requires audacity — “sticking your neck out when you know something isn’t right.”

    “Some employers believe that protecting employees is actually the right thing to do,” Samuel J. Gualardo told his ASSE audience while addressing safety culture improvement. “It should have nothing to do with OSHA.”

    The emotional connection between senior leaders and safety is significant, noted Thomas R. Krause, chairman of Behavior Science Technology, Inc., and a speaker at the conference. What motivates a senior leader’s interest in fatality prevention is the personal interest, he said.

    People-based safety

    One of the hottest sessions at the conference was Scott Geller’s presentation on People-Based Safety™, as evidenced by the fact that late arrivals to the June 12 afternoon session were turned away at the door because the room was packed. For those who did get in, they heard Dr. Geller discuss the dynamics of human nature relevant to increasing involvement in occupational safety to prevent injuries.

    If you’re curious to know the differences between People-Based Safety™ and the once-acclaimed behavior-based safety, Dr. Geller points out ten key distinctions between the two:

    Pic 2: OSHA’s here to help, Ed Foulke told a large ASSE audience.

    What CEOs want to hear

    As a safety pro, you need to know how to talk to your CEO in order to promote a safe and healthy workplace, said Fay Feeney of Envision Strategic Group. Speaking at an ASSE session, Feeney, along with Teresa Pacelli of Venture Programs, said that CEOs expect safety pros to know five things: 1) how do we compare to the competition; 2) how does safety contribute to the company’s financial health; 3) what is the return on investment (ROI) if the CEO agrees; 4) what needs to be done and why; and 5) what are the next steps.

    And it is interesting to note that some CEOs may not be as out of touch with safety as you might think. When asked during the conference’s executive summit what is not helpful to CEOs, James Keller, senior vice president of Weyerhaeuser, responded, “You don’t have to lecture me. I get it.”

    Finger pointing is not helpful either, offered Stephen Hanks, president and CEO of Washington Group International.


    While OSHA’s new administrator Edwin G. Foulke, Jr. didn’t make any groundbreaking announcements during his ASSE plenary session speech, he did insist that the federal agency will aggressively pursue employers that violate safety and health laws. However, while Foulke touted tough enforcement, he also said that OSHA must convince people that the agency is there to help them and that OSHA is “the good cop on the corner.” He stressed that the agency strives to prevent injuries and that it will make an effort to work with employers it has never reached before.

    No new standards

    In meeting with the safety industry press following his ASSE speech, Foulke answered “no” when asked by an ISHN reporter if there are any new OSHA standards on the horizon. He did, however, add “we’ll see,” and that during his tenure he’d at least like to “get some things out there.”

    Sidebars:Distinctions between BBS & PBS

    Behavior-Based Safety People-Based Safety
  • Only observable behavior
  • Observables and unobservables
  • Stimuli “trigger” behavior
  • Choice is critical
  • Interpersonal coaching
  • Interpersonal and self-coaching
  • Habits are ideal
  • Mindful fluency is best
  • Thinking not addressed
  • Thinking is addressed
  • External factors only
  • External and internal factors
  • Other-directed accountability
  • Self-directed responsibility
  • Perceptions not addressed
  • Perceptions are addressed
  • Personality not considered
  • Personality is addressed
  • Attitudes not addressed
  • Attitudes are addressed

  • Safety 2007 ASSE Professional Development Conference & Expo

    June 24-27 • Orlando, FL • For info: www.asse.org