The safety world is so fragmented into small, medium and large employers, and into so many different vertical industries – construction, mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, healthcare, services, etc. – it is difficult to get a reading on what are the issues of the day. It’s much easier at a meeting like ASSE’s annual confab here in Denver, where you walk past session room after session room, duck your head in, and see who and what topic is drawing the crowds.
For those of you keeping score, here the “keywords” or “key issues” as determined by the title of sessions:
1. Culture – 13 sessions specifically have “culture” in their title. You know more sessions will discuss the many angles to cultue.
2. OSHA – 13 sessions. This marks something of a comeback for OSHA. During the Bush years early in this century, OSHA seemed to have drawn the blinds and nodded off (with apologies to John Henshaw who as OSHA chief wanted to be much more activist than the administration allowed). With so little action from the agency, fewer educational sessions were given over to OSHA topics. Now in 2012 with the GHS standard on the street and talk of standards for silica and injury and illness prevention programs, OSHA is back on the radar screen.
3. Risk – 10 sessions. This covers risk management, risk assessment, risk perceptions. For decades ”risk” has been associated with insurance and finance. Slowly but surely employers are learning of safety risks and reputation risks.
4. Ergonomics – 9 sessions. The lack of an OSHA standard hasn’t prevented enterprising safety pros and employers from devising DIY ergo solutions.
5. Safety management systems – 5 sessions. The good old safety program has evolved quite a bit.
6. Leadership, behavior, leading indicators – each has 4 sessions devoted to them. Sessions on leadership and behavior go back 10-20 years. The behavior-based high tide was reached 10-12 years ago. Leadership has been a steady draw particular in the past 10 years. Much more attention is finally going to leading indicators, as safety pros educate execs to the limitations and at-times illusions of traditional lagging metrics such as injury rates.