Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our Urgent Priority: Preventing Fatalities

Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM
On Sept. 11, 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries for 2013. A preliminary total of 4,405 fatal work-related injuries were recorded in the U.S. last year, and the rate of fatal work-related injuries for U.S. workers in 2013 was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers. Both statistics are slight improvements from 2012. And while any improvement is worth noting, the fact is, more than 4,400 people lost their lives on the job in 2013.

These results are even more troubling when we consider the findings of ASSE-Foundation-sponsored research as reported in “Occupational Fatality Risks in the U.S. and the U.K.” in the January 2014 issue of American Journal of Industrial Medicine:
Our comparison of reported work injury deaths in the U.S. and the U.K. indicates that by this measure workers are considerably safer in the latter. The disparity is large—twofold in some sectors, more than fourfold in others. In construction, the sector with the largest number of deaths in the U.S., the disparity grew larger during the last decade, from a rate that was 50% higher to a rate almost 4 times as high.
Why haven’t we made greater strides in eliminating work-related fatalities? What lessons can we learn from our counterparts in the U.K.? One answer to both of these questions is OSH risk assessments. Consider the following facts:

•European Union directives have required employers in member countries to perform OSH risk assessments since 1989.

•Safety by design (also called prevention through design) is required by legislation in the U.K.

ASSE believes that a greater focus on the use of risk assessments and application of risk assessment principles is a key to improving OSH performance and reducing work-related fatalities. That is why ASSE has established a strategic objective to promote the value of risk-based OSH decision making. I’d like to share with you a few initiatives we are undertaking.

ASSE’s Risk Assessment Initiatives
Founded in 2013, ASSE’s Risk Assessment Institute is a gateway for ASSE members to share best practices, and access the latest tools and research. The institute’s website ( offers a host of checklists, templates, forms and other resources to help us implement new practices or upgrade current procedures to better control risks.

In addition to using the available tools and resources, we must continuously improve our risk assessment skills. To help us meet that need, ASSE will launch its Risk Assessment Certificate Program Feb. 10-12, 2015, during SeminarFest in Las Vegas, NV. Featuring a blend of classroom and online learning and a final project, the program is designed to help OSH professionals learn risk assessment techniques, practice the skills we need to influence management and gain support for risk reduction efforts, and understand how to identify and report key metrics that support an organization’s objectives.

As risk assessment continues to gain business importance, ASSE is also leading efforts to bring greater attention to risk assessment through standards. The ANSI/ASSE/ISO (Z690/31000) standards on risk assessment and risk management are being adopted by organizations around the world, and the 31000 document is among ISO’s top five best-selling standards. In addition, ASSE has published a well-received technical brief on these standards ( It’s also worth noting that the Z690/31000 standards are key references for the workgroup developing the proposed ISO 45001 standard on safety and health management systems because risk assessment plays a key role in their effective implementation.

A Worldwide Priority
Another interesting OSH-related news item was reported on Sept. 11, 2014. Following a meeting in Melbourne, Australia, the G20’s labor and employment ministers endorsed a statement in which they call safer and healthier workplaces “an urgent priority” ( The statistics don’t lie. Work-related injuries and diseases are a human tragedy that produce lasting consequences for workers, families and businesses around the world. As OSH professionals, we must use and continuously improve our ability to identify and control risk to prevent these devastating outcomes and generate the urgent attention and action needed to create truly safe and healthy workplaces.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Leadership in Safety

Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM
ASSE volunteer leaders gather each fall near Chicago, IL, for the Society’s annual Leadership Conference. This event aims to help attendees:
  • develop valuable leadership skills that are transferable to the workplace;
  • network with other safety leaders to find solutions to their latest challenges;
  • share best practices and meet key Society leaders.
Why is it important to develop leadership skills? Beyond helping us be better volunteer leaders, these skills apply to every facet of our professional practice. As I have moved through various stages of my personal development as a leader, I have made several observations. I’d like to share three of them with you.

My first observation is that SH&E professionals have transformed from being solely technical advisors to being influencers. Management expert Kenneth Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” My experience suggests he is correct. Management’s involvement in safety leadership remains paramount, but high-performing OSH professionals recognize the importance of influencing key constituencies. Understanding and applying techniques and strategies derived from current research on influence can help each of us expand our leadership capabilities.

My second observation is that to be effective leaders we must look beyond our own workplaces. We face new challenges related to global supply chains, temporary workers, a mobile workforce, and expectations to improve employee safety and wellness. From a leadership perspective, these developments present us with opportunities to find new solutions, build new coalitions and challenge the status quo.

Consider, for example, OSH issues related to the global supply chain. Of the four worst tragedies in the history of the supply chain, three of the worst have happened in the past 2 years. Over the years, many of us have grown desensitized to news of worker deaths in developing countries, where many of the products we purchase and use each day are manufactured. Yet, these deaths come at a huge price. As International Labor Organization reports:

Deaths and injuries take a particularly heavy toll in developing countries, where a large part of the population is engaged in hazardous activities. . . . Throughout the world, the poorest and least protected, often women, children and migrants, are among the most affected.

ASSE is leading the charge to elevate safety as a key component of sustainability initiatives that many corporate boards worldwide support. In May 2014, ASSE met with representatives of the Bangladesh and U.S. governments, garment industry groups and other stakeholders to discuss ways to improve safety in the supply chain. In August, at the XX World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, which was founded by ASSE, AIHA, and Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, delivered a well-received symposium on building a sustainable culture of prevention in the supply chain.

Such efforts challenge the long-held assumption that worker deaths in the supply chain are a cost of doing business. We all must examine our organization’s external touch points and consider whether we are sufficiently engaged to successfully manage those risks.

My third observation is that safety leadership also entails taking a lead in advancing the OSH profession. To become recognized leaders, we must elevate the status of our profession by better educating the business community about the value we bring to organizations in areas such as risk, productivity, employee engagement and culture, and sustainability. To do so, we must expand our knowledge into new areas such as negotiations, finance, project management, and risk assessment and risk management.

By increasing our knowledge and skills in all of these areas, we can demonstrate our unique abilities to manage change, resolve conflict and produce results. By continuously transforming our practice and our profession, we can engage our senior management teams and deliver effective solutions.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Lifelong Learning

Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM
Ever since I was young, I have loved to learn. For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed the excitement of discovering the next new bit of information. Even today, each time I learn something new I discover 10 other things I want to know more about.

When I think about my career in safety, I can definitely see the influence of this love for learning—whether it was earning the CSP and ARM designations, completing a master’s degree in organizational leadership or attending a wide range of ASSE professional development events over the years. Each of these experiences has helped me understand current trends and develop new areas of competence. Collectively, these activities have helped me improve my personal effectiveness and increase my organizational influence.

From Technical Advisor to Influencer
Technical competence will always be the cornerstone of the occupational safety and health (OSH) profession, but being able to influence an organization’s direction and performance has become essential to our success. For our profession to thrive, we must be viewed as trusted business partners who can effectively manage a wide range of risks.

To achieve this, we must continuously add new skill sets related to business, communication and leadership. These skills can help us understand the internal and external business climate and business needs, and will enable us to more effectively communicate a vision for the future. Applying these skills will also help us change how our profession is perceived by business leaders, decision makers and the general public.

Well-known management expert Ken Blanchard once said, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” High-performing OSH professionals understand the importance of learning and applying effective techniques and strategies to influence key constituencies.

There is a wealth of research on the science of influencing others. One great source is Robert Cialdini, the author of the best-selling book, Influence, who has spoken at several ASSE events. Another is author Daniel Pink, who says in his latest book, To Sell Is Human, “People are now spending about 40% of their time at work engaged in nonsales selling—persuading, influencing and convincing others” (p. 34). To successfully engage with our leadership team and become influential members of our organizations, we must have strong business fundamentals and effective interpersonal skills.

ASSE: Your Continuing Education Partner
So where do we go to learn and develop these skills? ASSE offers several programs designed specifically to meet this need. These include seminars such as “Becoming a Great Leader” and “Realizing Your Leadership Potential.” In addition, the Executive Program in Safety Management and the Global Safety Management Certificate Program provide an opportunity for OSH professionals to sharpen their business acumen and develop a global vision that is a must in today’s world.

ASSE also delivers skill-building courses that teach us how to influence leaders and key decision makers. Seminars such as “Establishing Your Place in the C-Suite” and the upcoming symposium, “Energizing Your Safety Management Program,” contain content that aims to help OSH professionals increase interaction with and gain greater recognition from senior leaders. Beyond these in-person courses, ASSE offers a selection of virtual learning options as well. Please take some time to explore ASSE’s many educational options (you can learn more at www and consider expanding your education outlook beyond your normal area of practice.

Continuous learning and education propel us, in our lives and in our careers. There simply is no better path to take on our journey to becoming effective leaders and organizational influencers.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A New Day for ASSE

Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success.”  - Henry Ford 

On June 8, 2014, ASSE’s House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved changes to the Society bylaws. The historic vote to restructure ASSE’s governance framework heralds a new day for the Society. The changes to come offer us an opportunity to take a fresh look at how we can better engage our members and improve lines of communication, while easing the burden on our volunteers.

One of the first changes we will see involves Society elections. Nominations for ASSE’s 2015 leadership positions are being accepted until Sept. 1, 2014. On the Board of Directors, we will elect a senior vice president and four directors at large. Other positions include council vice presidents for professional affairs, professional development and region affairs; vice presidents in regions I, III, V and VII; area directors in regions II, IV, V, VI and VIII; assistant administrators for nine practice specialties; and administrators and assistant administrators for four common interest groups. Be sure to visit the nominations and elections web page to learn more about these positions, the qualifications to run for office and the nomination package requirements.

The new structure that will take effect with the 2015 Society elections will result in a smaller, more diverse and strategic-focused board that can effectively recognize and capitalize on emerging opportunities that best serve ASSE’s mission. A volunteer leadership structure that provides more efficient engagement opportunities will create more support and streamlined responsibilities for members who have increasingly limited time to volunteer.

In charting ASSE’s new course, much work lies ahead. We will examine the current region structure and the level of support given to our chapters. We will seek to engage more members, embrace our diversity and continue to establish a broader global reach. Through these initiatives, we will create more leadership opportunities for members looking to get involved with ASSE in various ways.

I encourage you to sincerely consider what ASSE role you might fill. By becoming more involved in ASSE, you can help the Society elevate the status of the occupational safety and health profession and expand our profession’s influence with key stakeholders in the business community, workers, local, state and federal policymakers, and the general public.

Your increased involvement will also help ensure that we continue to challenge the status quo in our workplaces, our industries and our profession. In our workplaces, we must continue to evolve from technical advisors to valued business partners. In our industries, we must constantly look beyond our own work sites to identify emerging trends and develop innovative solutions that will improve safety performance.

In our profession, we recently challenged the status quo by approving the Society’s new governance model. To ensure that the anticipated improvements become reality, we must now begin the important work of implementing the changes related to this model. In the coming months, the Society’s leadership team will be reaching out to members, visiting with regions and chapters, talking to councils, practice specialties and common interest groups, and asking for input across the Society to inform and shape our future actions.

To start the process, ask yourself these questions: How do I envision ASSE? How would I like to be engaged? Then, please share your comments with me in this space. I look forward to hearing from you and collaborating with you as we begin this exciting journey.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

ASSE Is a Member-Driven Organization

Trish Ennis, CSP, ARM
ASSE is often described as a member-driven organization. But what does that mean exactly? And how are ASSE members setting the organization’s direction?

In a member-driven organization, members are actively engaged in the activities the organization performs. This includes participation and leadership at all levels in support of the organization’s strategic goals. Within ASSE, we as members are involved in all aspects of Society operations, from the elected Board of Directors to the activities carried out by councils, regions and chapters at the Society, region and local levels. ASSE is a great example of an organization whose members are actively working to define their profession and set a direction for the future.

As a 103-year old organization with a diverse membership base, the Society has continuously evolved in response to significant changes over the years, from regulatory and societal changes to the global economy and technology. Throughout this long history, ASSE has been a leader in providing top-quality continuing education as a key element of achieving its mission to help ASSE members excel in their careers. This has only been possible because ASSE members are always willing to help each other learn, ever ready to share their knowledge and collectively determined to grow this profession.

Let’s consider two key areas in which this is most evident—professional development and technical publications. At the Society level, ASSE’s annual professional development conference (PDC) improves each year, SeminarFest continues to grow and our hot-topic symposia are well attended, as are our many virtual learning events.

At the local level, the education delivered by chapters and regions is expanding as well. For example, this past Society year, ASSE chapters and regions around the world delivered nearly 35 local or area PDCs that drew more than 5,550 safety practitioners. These events included the 11th Middle East Chapter PDC, the Nigeria Chapter’s first-ever PDC, the biennial Pacific Rim Governor’s Conference and the Society’s first-ever PDC in India. These are just a few examples of the extensive and diverse learning opportunities available to ASSE members. They are also a testimony to our members’ dedication to advancing the profession through education, networking and knowledge exchange.

Members are also directly involved in identifying professional development topics and creating events. Members of ASSE’s Council on Professional Development work closely with members of other ASSE councils and committees to assess member needs, identify subject-matter experts and develop new delivery methods, such as webinars, virtual symposia, podcasts and similar offerings that enable 24/7 accessibility to education.

In addition, technical publications have long been a top benefit of membership. ASSE members play a key role in these efforts by serving as peer reviewers on the Editorial Review Board for Professional Safety or by reviewing book proposals as members of ASSE’s Technical Publications Committee. Many more members write these articles and books as a way to share their knowledge and lessons learned.

The Society’s practice specialty groups also regularly publish member-written technical articles and white papers, and many other members help develop the consensus standards that drive continuous improvement across all industries. All of this information contributes to our profession’s body of knowledge and helps us improve our skills so we can better safeguard workplaces around the world.

As you can see, ASSE membership provides us with many tangible benefits such as continuing education and technical content. For many, membership also provides diverse ways to give back to the profession, whether it is presenting at conferences, writing articles or volunteering as Society leaders at various levels. I encourage each of you to explore the many opportunities available to you to get involved in ASSE and add your voice as we pursue our vision of the future of our profession.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Let's Take a Public Stand for Worker Safety

Dear Fellow ASSE Members:

It's not every day that we get a chance to do something together to make a public stand for the safety and health of workers. As I know many of you already have heard, ASSE's partners in occupational safety and health - OSHA and NIOSH - have been working hard to get as many construction employers as possible to participate in the June 2-6 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The point of the Stand-Down is to get employers and workers together to stop and take the time to focus on ways each job site can reduce the leading risk of death in construction - FALLS. What you already do to protect workers from falls is needed on every construction worksite.

Even if you do not work in construction, you have a role to play by committing to this effort with your employer and by reaching out to other employers, colleague safety and health professionals, construction workers you know or anyone else who can help make a Stand-Down happen. Both OSHA and NIOSH have created webpages to help you learn more about the Stand-Down and how you can participate. ASSE and its Construction Practice Specialty have urged chapters and members to be a catalyst and embrace this opportunity to demonstrate our leadership role in construction safety. Please click here for a list of good ideas on how to make a Stand-Down effective.

In these last couple of weeks before the Stand-Down, it's not too late to step up and be that catalyst in the prevention of falls in construction. Making workplaces safer is our common goal. This is a great opportunity to make that happen together.

Make it a safe day!


Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CFIOSH, EurOSHM

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Connecting the Dots: Partnerships, Alliances & Collaboration

2013 ASSE President
Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, EurOSHM
Occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals are natural collaborators. It is how we get things done. Whether we partner with leaders in operations, procurement and maintenance, or with other stakeholders such as human resources, research and development, risk management, legal or marketing, through collaboration we build the buy-in and engagement needed to effect change and advance any safety initiative.
Collaboration through partnerships and alliances is essential to ASSE as well. The outcomes of our collaborative efforts far exceed what any one group could achieve on its own for OSH professionals, for the profession and, most importantly, for worker safety. The unified voice of the global OSH community is strong. When heard, opportunities for change abound.

This month, I would like to highlight some examples that illustrate how collaboration helps strengthen the profession and, ultimately, benefits all ASSE members.

The Power of Collaboration
•The Central Indiana Chapter partners with the Indiana Department of Labor’s INSafe Division and the Indiana Chamber of Commerce each year to present a 3-day conference that draws more than 800 safety professionals.
•The Central Florida Chapter joined forces with the Alliance for Central Florida Safety to create Safety Day 2014 in March. The event drew more than 500 attendees and 50 vendors.   
•Region I’s strategic plan includes designating a region-level association outreach coordinator. The ultimate goal of this position is to foster relationships and build partnerships with groups such as AIHA, NSC, RIMS, Society for Human Resource Management and Public Agency Safety Management
•In Region V, the Northeastern Illinois, Three Rivers and Greater Chicago chapters have long partnered with various groups, including AIHA’s Chicago Section, the local section of Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals, OSHA, Northern Illinois University and National Safety Education Center, to hold an annual conference. This past year marked the 25th anniversary of this partnership, and the conference attracted more than 800 attendees. 
•ASSE’s Safety Professionals and the Latino Workforce common interest group and the Standards Development Committee are translating safety information for Spanish-speaking audiences. The Z359 Fall Protection Code and the curriculum of the VPP Excellence in Safety Certificate of the University of Alabama in Birmingham are examples of the ongoing effort to reach out to Hispanic SH&E professionals and the Spanish-speaking workforce.
•ASSE and its partners in the International Network of Safety & Health Practitioner Organizations are developing a global competency model for the profession.
• North American Occupational Safety and Health Week continues to grow and raise awareness of occupational safety globally. It’s the result of our ongoing collaboration with Canadian Society of Safety Engineering and Interdisciplinary Association of Occupational Health and Hygiene of Mexico.
•ASSE joined with NSC and AIHA to support federal funding for OSHA and NIOSH. Even in difficult budget years, the national focus on OSH must remain strong.
•ASSE is also working with OSHA to spread the word about the agency’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction June 2-6.
The campaign goal is to have more than 25,000 employers and 500,000 workers participate.

Connecting the Dots
As these examples show, the whole is, indeed, greater than the sum of its parts. Whether in your workplace, as an ASSE volunteer or throughout life, alliances and collaboration are game changers that help us achieve outcomes that likely would not have been possible otherwise. I challenge each of you to seek out partners, build alliances and look for opportunities to collaborate so that your safety strategies and initiatives can succeed.

What you will do today to move the safety needle in your organization?