The American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2012,held in Denver this past June 3-7, showed no signs of the economy’s doldrums. The expo was the largest ever in ASSE’s 33 years of putting on its Professional Development Conference, with 504 exhibitors occupying 80,000 square feet of space. Attendance was the second highest-ever, with 4,243 registrants availing themselves of more than 250 educational sessions.

Said incoming President Rick Pollock, CSP:  “One challenge facing ASSE and the profession is the combination of the state of the global economy and the focus on the presidential election. We are working to help business leaders see the importance of safety. Helping our members increase their value through learning opportunities like Safety 2012 and the pre- and post-seminars is an important step.”

Hot topics

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 culture.

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 particularly 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.

7. Sustainability and green – 5 sessions in all.

Instant polling

ASSE went all high-tech Monday morning at its grand opening session. ASSE President Terrie Norris led the packed ballroom in a text messaging poll. So instead of silencing cell phones, attendees texted their answers to a pre-set number.

Question one: Did you go out to dinner in Denver last night? Yes: 65%  No: 35%

Question two: Have you downloaded one of the free safety apps available at the meeting? Yes: 55%   No: 45%

Question three: What are you here for? Technical sessions – 53%; Networking – 25%; Expo – 12%; General sessions – 8%

So it’s goodbye to the man frantically running around the room with mic in hand reaching out to and sometimes over attendees to take their questions.

Next year

Safety 2012 meets in Las Vegas, one of the favorite spots for ASSE members and site of the largest-ever ASSE PDC, June 24-27.