Good Tuesday Morning,

Live from Chicago ISHN’s coverage of the 2011 American Society of Safety Engineers’ Professional Development Conference and Expo continues…

Driving the day

Monday, the first full day of official proceedings, just more than 4,100 attendees from 38 countries toured almost 500 exhibit booths and heard talks on motivation, OSHA, lessons from BP, the Heinrich Safety Triangle revisited, corporate social responsibility, culture, leadership, the aging workforce, China’s evolving safety and health regulatory infrastructure, scores more of topics.

Taking in all conference educational topics, here is top ten most popular sessions, ranked by the number of sessions devoted to the topic: 1) culture; 2) the human dynamics of safety – engagement, communication, human error, etc ; 3) OSHA; 4) risk assessment; 5) the business side of safety; 6) ergonomics; 7) leadership; 8) driving safety; 9) training; and 10) international issues.

Past glory – One session out of more than 240 included “behavior-based safety” in its title.

Monday was one of those long, highly caffeinated trade show days, starting with the opening ceremonies at 7:30 am and wrapping up around 11pm out at the tip of Chicago’s Navy Pier with more than 1,000 safety and health pros and exhibitors rocking out to an all-star rock and roll band from the 60s and 70s, proving again that baby boomers are not going gently into that good night.

BTW… every middle-aged member of the band that we saw was wearing earplugs.

Here’s how the day unfolded for us…

Hilda Solis

Understanding human motivation

8:04 am – HILDA SOLIS pops up on 4 giant video screens in McCormick Place’s Skyline Ballroom to send greetings from the Department of Labor. “Before OSHA workers had no safety and health rights,” she says. “Since OSHA, workplace deaths have declined by 65% and injuries by 67%.”

She’s followed by a fellow on stage who sings “Thanks for the Memories” with new words inserted to honor ASSE’s 100th anniversary.

The vast Skyline Ballroom, two football fields long with a high arched ceiling, is filled with about 4,000 pros. You see very few ties and suits. This is an open-collar, jeans and even shorts crowd, casual, relaxed, down to earth. Very much a baby boomer crowd

8:25 am – AUTHOR DANIEL PINK launches into his keynote talk on understanding human motivation. Takeaways: dishing out more and more rewards does not always succeed in improving performance, nor does dealing out more and more punishment. For simple behaviors, yes, for more complex behaviors, no. An endless reliance on carrots and sticks is not the way to go. Let’s get real: money matters. Money is a major motivator. Humans are attuned to norms of fairness, and unequal pay for the same work is profoundly de-motivating. When possible, pay employees a bit more than enough. Result: people won’t think, gripe, whine about their pay; they will think about their work. Take money off the table as a motivating factor.

What does, then, motivate? Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. Give people flexibility and freedom over their use of time, team interplay, how they do their tasks, the techniques they use to achieve stated expectations and job standards. Mastery leads to self-confidence and self-esteem. Purpose, answering the question why people are doing the tasks assigned, creates a sense of mission and belongingness.

ISHN thought bubble

Pink’s talk we think missed the marked with many in the audience, who come from manufacturing, construction, and consulting operations. Example: his suggestion of giving employees free time to develop ideas and innovations doesn’t work when building houses or working assembly lines or machinery. His target audience seems to be Silicon Valley high tech companies and research-oriented Fortune 1000 behemoths.

Accidents happen

10:22 am – WHAT’S THE MOST TIME-CONSUMING PART OF YOUR JOB? That’s one of the questions asked in a 15-minute interview of safety pros conducted on the expo floor by a Princeton-NJ outfit, Research & Insights. Attendees are lined up to take the survey, “incentivized’ by the $30 immediate cash handout. Other queries, seemingly asked on behalf of an unnamed safety training company: What part of your job can be automated? What’s the single-most pressing need for managing your program? What is your best source for worker safety training? How do you monitor which workers need which training? What is your biggest need in the safety training area? Is compliance a cost or a competitive advantage?

11:00 am – TOM KRAUSE of BST stands before a packed room talking on executive leadership safety-related perceptions, beliefs and behaviors. He flashes on the screen CEO quotes that make a pro cringe: “Accidents sometimes happen.” “We don’t know where these events are coming from and we see no pattern.” “Sometimes you step off the curb and get hit by a bus.”

11:05 am – IDENTIFYING CULTURAL HAZARDS is the title of a presentation before about 120 attendees. Says the speaker: We learn lessons either through experience or effect. Lessons learned through effect occur over time, and are behaviors reinforced by the repetition of the same consequences, over and over again. We need to create lessons of effect, and frontline supervisors are in the best position to make that happen. Safety pros can’t be everywhere.

OSHA update, safety triangle

OSHA UPDATE – from HQ in Washington agency officials give a preview of coming standards: working conditions in shipyards have recently been addressed with an updated final standard. A standards improvement process has eliminated outdated standards definitions, specifications, and certain training certifications, which supposedly will save employers millions of dollars. By year’s end OSHA hopes to issue a final rule updating safety requirements for electric power generation, transmission and distribution. One change: how close workers can come to energized lines.

OSHA hopes by the end of 2011 to issue revisions to the hazard communication standard that will require new training for employees on hazardous chemical labeling pictograms and safety data sheets, which will use a standardized 16-section format. New labeling and data sheet requirements will bring U.S. workplaces into “harmony” with United Nation’s hazcom standards being adopted around the world. The U.S. is behind the European Union, which has already adopted the new hazcom requirements.

Next year OSHA hopes (agency standards-setting always carries the caveat of “we hope”) to issue a final rule on safeguarding walking and working surfaces and the use of personal fall protection equipment.

11:23 am – HEINRICH’S SAFETY TRIANGLE, which has governed safety thinking since the 1930s and states that for every fatality a workplace can expect a ratio of X number of injuries and a larger number of near-injury incidents. This “pyramid” is being challenged now by a number of researchers who criticize the methodology of Heinrich’s original research, which was a review of thousands of accident investigation reports. These investigations invariably concluded the event was caused by “man error.”

11:28 am – CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY gets more and more press in the general business media, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, et al, but it does not seem to interest a great number of safety and health professionals. The session on CSR has plenty of empty seats.

ISHN THOUGHT BUBBLE – CSR is really the province of companies doing business on a global scale, who are under the scrutiny of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club that want to be sure the Apples and IBMs of the world are not exploiting child labor overseas or polluting foreign lands. That’s important, but of no interest to a U.S. based safety and health pro overtaxed by overseeing multiple U.S. facilities and who has no international duties.

Dr. David Michaels

I2P2: Take a deep breath

2:00 pm – OSHA CHIEF DR. DAVID MICHAELS, NIOSH HEAD JOHN HOWARD walk out and take seats on the stage of the Skyline Ballroom for a rather casual one-hour sit-down with moderator Diane Steagal representing ASSE.

Right from the start, Dr. Michaels is hit with three questions about the Injury and Illness Prevention Program standard. How will it be enforced? Will it be a second “general duty clause”? Is it a back door way of regulating ergonomics? What will it do to the day to day job of pros?

I2P2 is really not even out of the starting gate yet, says the OSHA boss. “We are just beginning. This is a slow and byzantine process that will take years. We hope to engage the whole country in finding answers to how best execute an I2P2 standard. Will it be a regulatory burden? Every time OSHA even thinks about doing something new people will say it’s going to be a burden. We believe I2P2 will be an important addition to every OSHA existing regulation.”

OSHA plans to take the unusual step of issuing a White Paper explaining how I2P2 would be enforced, even before rulemaking is completed. This is the reverse of OSHA’s customary approach, which is to issue a standard and then the follow-up enforcement directive.

ISHN THOUGHT BUBLBLE – In the less than 2 years Dr. Michaels has been in office I2P2 has become almost synonymous with all things OSHA. Right now it is only an idea, years away from becoming even an official proposal let alone a final rule. Yet it has quickly grown into an 800-pound gorilla that threatens to swat other OSHA issues, such as recent campaigns on distracted driving and heat stress, off the table. Everyone take a deep breath, step back, and permit a healthy debate to air out over I2P2.

DR. JOHN HOWARD comes off as relaxed, witty, insightful and articulate as always. Example: The good doctor tells the audience people who will survive and thrive in safety and health jobs in the next 10-20-30 years will excel at 2 or 3 things, not one. You won’t make it if you are not a generalist

“We really need to broaden the scope of safety and health work to include not only engineering but things like the emotional health of workers, health promotion, how work is organized to either increase or decrease job stress and fatigue,” says Dr. Howard.



Sustainability and aliens

4:00 pm – THE CENTER FOR SAFETY & HEALTH SUSTAINABILITY is officially launched at a reception and press event. About 30 people attend. OSHA’s Dr. Michaels sits in the back listening. The presidents and executive directors of ASSE and the American Industrial Hygiene Association are present; their groups are partners in the center. Safety leaders from the UK and Australia are also present, along with experts in safety and health management systems such as ANSI Z10 and OHSAS 18001.

The aim: get occupational safety health performance metrics to be a much larger component of corporate sustainability annual reporting, using the voluntary Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines. The lead GRI manager in the U.S. (GRI is headquartered in Amsterdam) is present and gives a 15-minute presentation on current sustainability reporting.

Safety and health metrics are almost completely missing in action as a measure of a company’s sustainability performance, as validated most often by third-party auditors, as you would audit financial records. Current reports focus on corporate ethics, environmental management (total waste generated, water consumption, energy consumption, GHG emissions, etc.), social issues such as community relations and labor rights, and corporate governance.

And the U.S. lags in sustainability reporting, according to GRI research. Who’s reporting? 45% of corporate sustainability reports come from European countries; 20% from Asia; and 14% from Latin American and 14% from North America.

GRI plans to update its reporting guidelines in 2013, and the new Center for Safety and Health Sustainability has its work cut out for itself contributing consensus new occupational safety and health metrics to be part of the new guidelines. The center is a non-profit, stand-alone operation that will be governed by a board of directors representing private industry, labor, NGOs and other stakeholders.

What is driving companies to compile and report on sustainability performance? The financial markets worried about lending capital to enterprises with global supply chains that can have weak links (think food quality problems, lead in toys, worker suicides in Chinese factories, accounting irregularities) that damage corporate reputations and lower their value on Wall Street. Hello BP…

LOCAL COLOR – We end with a Sunday evening visit to a newsstand on a corner of Michigan Avenue. It’s manned by a middle-aged round fellow with big round glasses, a head band, bushy sideburns, mustache and long scraggly thinning hair. Chicago is so different than when we were last here four or five years ago, we say. So many new, towering glass and steel skyscrapers. It’s like Vegas reinventing itself over and over. It’s the city of glass shoulders now.

“Ah, I can’t wait to move to Vegas,” says the newsstand operator. “If people ask me about Chicago out there, I’ll say, ‘How do you cook that?’ Everything has changed so much our ancestors wouldn’t even recognize us. People come up and ask if I have science fiction magazines. I say, just look all around you. There’s science fiction not two feet away.”

So long from the Windy City, which has been breezy, unseasonable cool and as far as we can tell alien-free during our stay…