August 1, 2007
More than 3,600 people from 44 countries trekked to Orlando, Fla., for the June 24-27 meeting.
ASSE’s annual gathering continues to grow. Exhibitor space sold for the ’07 Orlando professional development conference reached 57,950 square feet, besting last year’s 52,780 square feet of exhibitor space sold for the Seattle meeting and setting a new record for the size of the expo. More than 400 companies exhibited.
So what’s the attraction for vendors?
“We are the gold standard of safety organizations,” says Eddie Greer, past ASSE president, who was recognized at the meeting as a Society Fellow, the highest honor given by ASSE. “I know the vendors like this conference because they are dealing with ‘decision makers’.”
Mark Hansen, another past president, points to the quality of the technical sessions: “We do feedback studies and tailor the sessions accordingly. If you get poor ratings, you don’t get to speak again.”
“ASSE continues to grow as a national gathering because it draws decision makers who are both practical and scientific in their approach to safety,” said one attendee. “We had a friend who said, ‘There are two kinds of safety people: rotor heads and belt buckles.’ ASSE draws both.”
Leading & partnering
What topics were hot for those safety decision-makers?
“I would highlight the topic of leading quietly, presented by Harvard Business School professor James Badaracco, Jr.,” says Tom Lawrence, a member of ASSE’s board of directors.
“Related to that was a presentation on influence/collaboration, by consultant Julius Rhodes. These are areas that the profession needs to work on and appears to be ready more than ever to focus on.”
Indeed, pros have known for years the challenges they face to often lead and persuade indirectly, and to develop relationships up and down the org chart. Now that OSHA compliance issues are mostly under control, the issue of leadership does seem to be taking center stage.
That was the focus on the “Executive Summit,” where top executives discuss corporate safety needs and what they expect from their occupational safety and health staff.
“We must learn to be more creative when delivering the safety message,” said Senior Vice President of ABB Gerry Schepers. “For instance, let’s take seat belts. People know they can and do save lives, but still people are not wearing their seat belts. We have to develop ways to find and deliver a message that will change that behavior, to make everyone wear their seat belts.”
“You know, we get it, we get safety,” President of Textron’s Industrial Segment Barclay Olson said. “Today, you need to tell us how we can improve, what are the new solutions. Another piece of advice I can give is to develop management and leadership skills.”
“You need to partner, partner with other departments and you need to be selective with your information, be direct,” President of IAP Worldwide Service David Swindle said. “Today everyone’s in-box is piled high.”
“The executive summit was good in that it provided a benchmark for me with global and domestic companies on Sarbanes Oxley influences, as well as how the value of well-being is translated within very different organizations,” says Kathy Seabrook, president of Global Solutions, Inc./ Global Solutions International Ltd.
For Tom Lawrence, one inspiration for leadership was 82-year-old presenter Fred Manuele. “He exhorted us to understand and use the ANSI (management system) Standard Z-10 and its requirements for design safety and change management, among others. Sprinkled with his standard lead-ins: ‘Pay attention!’, ‘Hold on!’ and ‘Your assignment is...!’, he was vigorous and informative. What an inspiration!”
“I would say the human dynamics of safety is more popular than ever before, as well as leadership,” confirmed Dr. E. Scott Geller. “The first general session keynoter (Jennifer James, a cultural anthropologist) gave a wonderful delivery and shared profound knowledge regarding ecological influences on human behavior. She gave compelling evidence that personal stories motivate action. It seems everyone wants to talk about leadership and inspiring people to do more for safety.”
Meeting with OSHA
Speaking of quiet influence, consultant Linda Tapp says she “really enjoyed a little session that was not publicized. After OSHA chief Ed Foulke spoke on Monday, we (ASSE’s Consultants Practice Specialty) had a small panel discusion with him about how consultants reach out to small businesses and how we can help OSHA do the same. Both groups have similar challenges so we had a lot of good discussion. If you heard his speech, he emphasized that ‘OSHA can’t do it alone’ and this fit in nicely with our discussion.”
Linda, a member of ISHN’s Board of Advisors, was named Safety Professional of the Year by ASSE at the meeting. Tapp is president and principal consultant of her company Crown Safety LLC and her safety experience spans 20 years. She is also the author of a book titled “SafetyFUNdamentals: 77 Games and Activities to Make Training Great.”
Networks & more networks
Safety pros certainly collaborate, build relationships and network within their ranks at the ASSE meeting. “We are networkers and there are ample opportunities to network,” says Hansen.
Just ask Kathy Seabrook: “I conduct a two-day seminar for ASSE called Global EHS Management so I have the opportunity to begin the conference with a new network of global safety and health professionals. Following that, I am part of ASSE’s Global Task Force, so I had the opportunity to meet and network with safety professionals from Papua, New Guinea, Nigeria, Ecuador, UK, Australia, Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
And here’s a collaboration in the works: Seabrook has been working with ASSE and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) to form an ASSE presence in the United Kingdom, which she says will now go forward. “ASSE and IOSH were able to identify opportunities to leverage the knowledge base of the two organizations to the benefit of their memberships. There are plans for a global webinar sponsored by both organizations, for example. We were also able to discuss future opportunities with the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering.
Aside from building those soft skills of leadership and negotiating, and the global networks that are developing, safety pros are always looking for practical solutions. Mark Hansen says a session on contractor safety and multi-employer worksites provided “good information and great speakers.”
Another hot topic according to Hansen is the entire field of transportation safety, which was covered at the conference with sessions on vehicular accident analysis, “confessions of a business driver,” how to spot the high-risk driver, and truck industry best practices. ASSE has already started marketing a follow-up Transportation Seminar set for later this year, says Hansen.
Three sessions that stood out to one longtime conference attendee:
• “The OSHA Emergency Preparedness Update presented by Ruth McCully of USDOL-OSHA. She described the NRP (National Response Plan, NIMS and making them work in general industry as well as for emergency responders. The facts do develop over time so it’s good to be updated. To be effective, these plans need to be site specific, trained and drilled, but there’s evidence that this is not being done. There is no hammer to force facilities to do this, so we just wait for the next big emergency and hope nothing happens, it seems.
• “Paul Prince’s session on Machine Hazard Assessment was full of information about how to get specifics on how to do machine guarding. He recommends taking OSHA standard 1910.217, Mechanical Power Press, and applying it to other types of machines.
• “Rich Baldwin closed the conference with a really professional presentation on applying behavioral safety in construction. It shows that even with macho-type construction workers you can provide this type of training and have it effectively reduce incident rates and injuries.”
Making the investment
We’ll leave the last word on the conference to Mark Hansen, who is director, environmental health and safety for EXCO Resources, Inc.: “It’s kind of like a 401K. At first you are investing a little $$$ and not seeing too much. You come back and look at it and it’s $100K. We have traction and momentum. After the first year you attend you can’t imagine going anywhere else.”
SIDEBAR: ISHNâ€™s â€œSafety That Soarsâ€ award presentationWe can’t wrap up our review without mentioning that during the meeting ISHN Publisher Randy Green presented ISHN’s “Safety That Soars” award to three members of Atlantic Marine Alabama’s safety team: Teresa Preston - Director, Safety, Environmental and Quality; Roland Bassett - Pipe Technician and Safety-Hazard Control Committee member; and Rae Lawley - NDT Technician and Safety Hazard Control Committee Secretary.
Atlantic Marine Alabama is a 400-acre shipyard in Mobile, Ala., more than 100 years old, that completely turned around its safety performance in 18 months. Teresa Preston touched on the highlights of the turnaround that led to soaring safety at the awards presentation. (Read their story in ISHN’s June issue, page 25, or at http://www.ishn.com/CDA/Articles/Feature_Article/BNP_GUID_9-5-2006_A_10000000000000115606.)
Honorable mentions went to the Southern Ohio Medical Center and Gilbane Building Company, in the event sponsored by MCR Safety.
We appreciate the efforts of every organization that submitted an entry, and look forward to presenting more inspiring stories in next year’s “Safety That Soars” awards competition.