1 – Ties are out. The men’s tie business must be dying a slow death. Of 13,000 people at the Congress and Expo, you might count the number wearing ties on one hand. OK, maybe on both hands. Business casual rules, no doubt. Many attendees are comfortable in jeans and sports shirt. You don’t see many suits at all. Mostly it is the speakers in suits. And certainly not all of them.
2 – Astronaut Mark Kelly, wife of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords of Arizona, made good points in his keynote address. He related the many safety ramifications that can arise from the decisions we make all day long. Kelly flew fighter missions over Iraq during the war and conceded making decision errors that could have cost him his life. And he was involved with a team of doctors tending to his wife after her near-fatal shooting at a Tucson mall; many of their discussions centered around the risks of various proposed procedures.
We make so many decisions during a day, most small one and spontaneous, we hardly think through possible safety consequences.
3 – The world continues to get smaller and smaller. Not only in McCormick Place, the vast convention hall where the Congress & Expo is being held, do you see internationalists and hear a variety of languages spoken. Walking back to my hotel downtown last night it seemed every block featured a global diversity of languages, clothing, fashion, and foreigners, many talking into cell phones, and many out strolling with babies on a very pleasant early autumn evening.
4- More “green” products are creeping into the expo floor. How far “green” safety products will go is an open question at this point, it seems. “Green” products sold business to business, from one business to another, does not have the same clout of selling “green” products to consumers. Consumers can buy “green” to make a personal statement or to identify themselves as what, a concerned citizen or a tree-hugger… it depends on your own point of view.
5 – Technology is not creeping into the exposition, it’s more or less taking it by storm. Almost every vendor booth features either a flat screen, continuously-running videos, sales reps with tablet devices and smartphones. Internet connection at any booth is a must. And this is just on the personal use side of the tech tsunami. Increasingly vendors are promoting data acquisition and analytics.
6 – Where is OSHA in all this? The 40+ year old agency is showing its age, and the negative effects of a most partisan and polarized Washington climate, where basically nothing gets done. Compliance is a been there, done that concern for an ever-growing number of professionals.
7 – Management systems is a term that is being tossed about too easily. Too many companies believe their safety program IS their management system. Not true. Sophisticated safety and health management systems, the kind operated by Fortune 500 multinationals, involve elaborate data collection and analysis, advanced communication techniques, and serious attention to the old plan, implement, assess and revise as necessary model.