Thousands of people from more than 40 countries met in Chicago this week for the American Society of Safety Engineers’ (ASSE) Professional Development Conference (PDC) and Exposition, setting a record high attendance and helping the ASSE celebrate its 100th birthday.

The 4,503 attendees at Safety 2011 exceeded the last conference attendance record – 4,235 --set at the ASSE Las Vegas PDC.

This was ASSE’s largest expo ever, featuring 475 exhibitors in 75,000 square feet. Last year’s expo in Baltimore had just over 400 exhibitors and 62,000 square feet of display space.

Attendees were drawn to the conference by the more than 250 educational sessions on safety, health and environmental issues, including leadership, management, hazard recognition and elimination and technical skill development. The conference also gave them the opportunity to share ideas and best practices with peers from around the world and attend the ASSE’s 100th Gala at Chicago’s Navy Pier.

ASSE is the oldest safety society and has more than 34,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members located worldwide. According to the society, “the conference and expo not only show a continued growth in the occupational safety and health profession, but a growth in international demand for developing and implementing workplace safety and health systems that prevent workplace injury and illness.” The ASSE said the PDC and expo were designed to provide safety professionals with tools, resources and new products that they could take back to their workplaces.

Expo exhibitors ranged from large corporations to federal agencies to nonprofit organizations and colleges who showcased cutting edge safety technology, information, safety and health products. Many exhibits featured interactive displays and demonstrations.