Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Safety & Sustainability Take Center Stage at XX World Safety Congress

ASSE brought together several subject-matter experts to discuss
how to build a sustainable culture of prevention in the supply chain.

During the XX World Safety Congress running this week in Frankfurt, Germany, ASSE hosted a symposium, “Building a Sustainable Culture of Prevention in the Supply Chain.” 2014-15 ASSE President Trish Ennis moderated the session. During her opening remarks, Ennis noted, "Of the four worst tragedies in the history of the supply chain, three of the worst have happened in the last 2 years. There's still a lot of work to be done in this area."

To illustrate that point, Center for Safety and Health Sustainability (CSHS) Chair and 2014-15 ASSE Senior Vice President Tom Cecich shared a tale of two cities that compared two major construction projects of four cities: the construction for the Qatar World Cup 2022 and the 2012 London Olympics, and the construction of the Las Vegas City Center and the construction of One World Trade Center in New York City. Cecich reported that Qatar has already recorded more than 900 fatalities, which projects to an estimated 4,000 fatalities over the life of the project. London had zero fatalities. The Las Vegas project recorded 12 fatalities, while the New York City project had none.

"The point is," Cecich said, "it's possible to complete major (truly major) construction projects without fatalities. If complex construction projects can be completed without serious losses, then any business activities can be."

He also reiterated a key point being advocated by CSHS, ASSE and other groups: "By definition, worker safety and health is part of sustainability. This needs to matter."

Heinecke Werner, a health economist with more than 30 years' experiences in emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America, noted that consumers can play a huge role in moving this dialogue forward. "Market forces are more powerful than government regulations. This is a demand approach. Consumers must demand sustainable products."

To deliver sustainable products and create sustainable workplaces, companies have to change their culture. Thom Kramer, president of International Society for Fall Protection, said that the future of occupational safety requires developing an organizational mind-set that puts prevention ahead of protection. He offered these five areas of focus:
  1. Implement prevention through design.
  2. Follow the hierarchy of controls.
  3. Minimize the need for worker judgment.
  4. Educate and motivate organizations to establish a prevention culture.
  5. Develop tools to make equipment easier to use.
"Try to develop systems and equipment that is intuitive to what people use in their everyday lives," Kramer advised.

ASSE's growing international membership and influence are on full display during the Congress.
ASSE member Natalie Skeepers from
South Africa with ASSE President
Trish Ennis and ASSE staff member
Laura Clements.
ASSE member Natalie Skeepers traveled from South Africa, while G. Kamildeen Abiodun, president of ASSE's Nigeria Chapter delivered the presentation, “An Approach for Successful Construction HSE Planning and Implementation in Africa." According to Abiodun, more than 70% of African workplaces are in the informal sectors with little or no safety and health awareness. "Expert safety managers need to gain understanding of the sociocultural concerns of the informal workforce and leadership by example is of significant importance in the management of safety and health in Africa," he explained.