Monday, August 25, 2014

Energizing Safety: What Does the Future Hold?

The word plateau is used quite often when discussing occupational safety--whether it's stalled progress in reducing serious injuries and fatalities or programs that are producing good but not world-class results. And we all know that complacency is the enemy of progress.

Frank White
So, what can safety professionals do to redirect their efforts and energize occupational safety? Frank White, president of ORCHSE Strategies LLC, Washington, DC, and a keynote speaker at ASSE's upcoming Energize Your Safety Management Program symposium, sees good things on the horizon. "There are some very exciting developments that offer the promise of significant workplace safety and health improvements that can propel the profession to new heights," he says. "If the safety profession can adopt and be sponsors of new trends and new developments, I think we have a chance to see significant advances in safety and health."

One example White highlights is the fact that the number and rate of serious injuries and fatalities has remained steady despite ongoing decreases in injury and illness rates. "New approaches under development to identify risks associated with serious injuries and fatalities and new ways of tackling those could make a real difference," he says.

To make the most of these developments, the profession must connect better with the public. "Nobody cares about worker safety in the general public except when there’s a tragedy. Then they pay attention to it for a week," White says. "We've long lamented our inability to connect with the public. There are things out there that can help capture the public's attention. Total worker health is one of them. Sustainability is another movement that safety has only recently tried to be a significant part of. ASSE is leading the way in that regard."

For these developments to truly take root, White says it's also long past time to stop relying solely on OSHA data to document performance needs to change. "For 45 years our profession has relied on OSHA data. Companies pay attention when OSHA acts. That's kind of been the be-all-end-all. To really drive performance improvements . . . the profession has to think more broadly and adopt steps like total worker health and worker health wellness, and not just focus on workplace safety."

And, while the safety profession has achieved many things in the past few years, White advises practitioners to keep an eye on the future. "We need to understand our accomplishments, but we need to strive for continual improvement," he concludes. "I think looking at the future and what the potential obstacles are and the opportunities allow you to go to the next level. We should always look for improvement and new approaches and successes."

ASSE's Energize symposium will offer attendees the opportunity to do just that. In addition to White's look at the future, sessions will cover such forward-thinking topics as gap analysis, risk assessment, safety climate and global best practices. Attendees will also hear about the various safety and health management systems and how they can be implemented to improve safety performance and deliver new business outcomes.

ASSE's Energize symposium will be held Oct. 23-24 in Denver, CO. Click here to learn more.