For the first time in its 100-year history, the Des Plaines, Illinois-based American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) annual professional development conference (PDC) and exposition, Safety 2011, will be held in Chicago June 12-15 at McCormick Place - and it is already breaking records.

Last year’s ASSE PDC in Baltimore, Maryland, set a record when 62,000 square feet of exhibit space was sold representing more than 400 exhibitors. This was the largest number of exhibitors and square feet sold since the first ASSE PDC held in 1968. This year, three months before the conference, ASSE has already sold 60,800 square feet and is already planning to expand. The conference, which draws attendees from around the world, also draws international exhibitors. To date, companies from China, U.K., Taiwan, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, Korea, India, Japan and Canada will exhibit products and services.

ASSE officials also announced that Jim Cornelison, the famed Chicago Blackhawks (National Hockey League) national anthem singer, will open the conference’s June 13 general session. Cornelison is an opera singer trained at Indiana University and the Chicago Lyric and has performed the classics around the world.

As part of Safety 2011 and ASSE’s year-long celebration of a century of safety, the Society will also be host to a special 100th Anniversary Gala celebration at Navy Pier Monday, June 13. During the conference, attendees will also hear about the state of the Society and ASSE’s vision for the next 100 years of safety.

Packed content

As the premiere safety conference, attendees will be able to choose from more than 255 educational sessions from many topic tracks, including special tracks for executives, presentations on business skills and sessions covering various technical and managerial topics. New to Safety 2011 is a track on the history of safety and the occupational safety, health and environmental profession as well as corporate social responsibility. Keynote speaker Daniel Pink will share his innovative ideas about changing the world of work and keynote speaker Nancy Goodman Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Kommen Foundation, will share her story about how one person can make a difference.

Top executives representing a variety of industries will be on the ‘Executive Summit Panel’ providing their view of safety, advice and firsthand testimonials aimed at helping Safety 2011 attendees better understand what corporate leaders expect from their safety professionals and suggestions on how they can engage senior management.

Special plenary panel sessions with leaders from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will also be held.

In the spotlight are several technical tours selected by Chicago area ASSE chapter members where Safety 2011 attendees can observe different workplaces and gain new ideas to apply to their safety management challenges. The Chicago technical tours will be held at the Museum of Science and Industry, Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy (NIPSTA), Soldier Field, U.S. Cellular Field, the Deep Tunnel Facility, the Juno Lighting Group, The Morton Arboretum, S&C Electric Company, Green Tech Chicago, Great Lakes Recruit Training Center, the CTA, and Willis Tower.

For more information on ASSE’s Safety 2011 go to or call 847-699-2929 and or 630-434-7779 for exhibitors.

SIDEBAR: "A Century of Safety"

ASSE was founded on October 14, 1911 in New York City as the United Association of Casualty Inspectors with 62 members, months after the tragic fire on March 25, 1911, that claimed the lives of 146 female garment workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan.

Many workers in the factory jumped from the ninth floor to their deaths rather than burn alive. 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 blaze. The only safety measures available for the workers were 27 buckets of water. As the clothing materials fed the fire, workers tried to escape anyway they could. The ninth floor fire escape led nowhere and collapsed when used. Factory workers waiting for help at the windows watched helplessly as firefighters found their ladders were too short to reach the stranded workers and the water from the hoses could not reach the top floors.

No regulations were in effect that would have saved 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 greatly affected onlookers who watched helplessly as 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 fire.

Expanding through the decades

In 1914 the United Association of Casualty Inspectors changed its name to the present American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) and headquarters were established in New York City.

In 1919 ASSE published Safety Engineering, its first official publication, and began to grow as a national organization. In 1921 membership reached 2,500 and research into important eye protection began.

In October of 1924 the Engineering Section of the National Safety Council (NSC) merged with ASSE. The national headquarters relocated to Chicago. The first ASSE chapters - Boston and Metropolitan, New York - were created.

In 1937 ASSE became involved in industrial standards development. While around half of the members worked in insurance, many also worked in transportation and heavy machinery.

In 1947 ASSE reestablished itself as an independent organization, separate from NSC. ASSE participated in standards development and President Harry Truman’s Special Commission on Safety and Health. The G.I. Bill provided educational opportunities for former servicemen and many entered the occupational safety and health profession. Companies began to emphasize safety training for all employees.

In 1949 ASSE held its first elections. Membership reached almost 4,000.

In the 1950s, businesses’ emphasis on total safety programs increased as management viewed safety as a resource and a management function, and in 1952, membership jumped to 6,000.

In 1964 ASSE assisted in the revision of the Walsh-Healey Act (the New Deal federal law setting safety protections for employees of government contractors whose contracts exceeded $10,000). A heavy emphasis on education for safety professionals began. Systems safety management emerged with the advent of the U.S. space program and membership climbed to 8,000.

In 1967 the headquarters moved to Park Ridge, a suburb of Chicago, on October 21.

In 1968 ASSE backed the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, which created both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and was passed in December 1970.

In 1971 President Nixon appointed three ASSE members to various OSHA positions, including the Assistant Secretary of Labor. The membership grew to over 10,000.

In 1974 the ASSE journal was expanded and its name changed to Professional Safety. In 1979 over 100 chapters existed and membership exceeded 15,500 with a budget of over $1 million.

As ASSE grew, in 1985 the headquarters were relocated to their present location in Des Plaines, Illinois, on November 8. Also, divisions were created in such areas as transportation, international, health, etc. in order to address specialized technical interests of ASSE members.

Today, ASSE has more than 33,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members who lead, manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor, healthcare and education. Presently, ASSE has 151 chapters, 35 sections and 60 student sections. There are also members in 75 countries including Mexico, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Kuwait and Egypt. ASSE members serve on over 40 safety and health standards committees including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).