Sunday, July 1, 2012

Let’s Raise Our Sails & Catch the Winds of Change

2012 ASSE President Richard A. Pollock, CSP
ASSE is in the midst of change. Our predecessors had vision and built a strong foundation. But, the winds are shifting. Like many other professional organizations led by volunteers and with limited resources, ASSE is facing significant challenges. The Board of Directors recognized this and made a bold move. Instead of simply celebrating our heritage of growth and success, the Board set out to create a new vision and strategic direction for the Society. With members’ best interests as our guiding principle, we discussed and debated our future. The result was strong guiding values and new aspirational goals that were approved last year. Each council has worked diligently to establish new strategies to move ASSE toward these goals.

Why are these changes necessary? We face many challenges to our profession, livelihood and ASSE. We have been reactive as fatality and incident rates have plateaued, members have lost their jobs, volunteerism has declined and our future has become less secure. Our members, employers, workers, families and society deserve more.

However, these threats also present opportunity. Our new goals are based on opportunity and our strategies are charting the course to a strong future.

Our vision is clear. ASSE members are a primary source of knowledge for the SH&E profession. As thought leaders, we must speak out and set the agenda. We must gather and share a body of knowledge that defines and furthers our interests, and establishes ASSE as the source of information, learning and best practices.

We will advance the profession by supporting science-based research, and by sharing our knowledge through publications and professional development offerings. We will establish a strong global professional community, dedicated to a common cause. We will establish the value of safety professionals and our profession through deeper relationships with the business community and government.

Our work is important. Moreover, because we are passionate about our work and its importance, we will never quit and our voices will be heard. Because of our values, beliefs and passion, we will make sure we get the facts and our professional opinions to the table. We will advise, instruct and, in some cases, direct regulators on key issues.

Maximizing opportunity and managing business risk is fundamental to all successful organizations. Employers often mistakenly equate safety to regulatory compliance. As a result, safety is seen as a cost that is counterproductive to profit-based goals and fiduciary responsibilities. ASSE will engage business leaders in the discussion of business risk, not compliance.

Increasing profitability while reducing risk of loss to the environment, workers, community and customers are increasingly demanded by stakeholders. Greater requirements for fiduciary control, transparency in governance and employee stewardship have increased the business value of our profession. By having the vision and helping to create the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability, ASSE is at the forefront and will continue to lead globally.

ASSE also continues to advocate for the ongoing global shift toward risk-based approaches to SH&E. We are researching these approaches and their effect on business results, and defining methods for implementation. Business risk and enterprise risk are fundamental, and this is the language by which our prevention message will be heard. As long as OSHA standards exist, ASSE members will need to help employers comply. However, by leading the shift toward risk-based approaches and establishing prevention cultures, we will become better aligned with business strategies and goals, thus increasing our value.

So, let’s imagine. What does our future hold? Will the new goals and strategies make a difference? Imagine that ASSE continues to grow, expanding its influence around the globe. New members are engaged, and most realize that membership is a privilege and volunteerism is expected. We ensure the involvement of young members and students. Within this new culture, the very best professionals step forward. New leaders are identified earlier so they may be mentored and provided opportunities to grow.

New pathways for communication allow all voices to be heard. Chapters excel in providing member services. The practice specialties and common interest groups become more valuable as members broadly engage, reach their full potential and actively assemble our body of knowledge. Greater value is realized by those who can’t attend meetings, live remotely or across oceans. A strong global community emerges that embraces diversity and furthers our values.

Imagine that we are invited to the table where government and business policy are determined. Imagine the value of our profession is increased tenfold, ensuring that in another recession, our profession remains strong and highly valued. Most important, imagine a world that is safe and healthy for future generations.
Our vision is clear and our future is bright. Please engage and help lead our profession forward. Let your voice be heard.

“You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate. You can’t catch a fish unless you put your line in the water. You can’t reach your goals if you don’t try.”
Kathy Seligman

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