Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wanted: Your Ideas

2012 ASSE President
Richard A. Pollock, CSP
While researching and gathering information for a conference presentation on the link between supervisors and improvements in the safety climate, I logged onto ASSE's Body of Knowledge (BOK) website - which you can find at -and searched on some select keywords related to my topic. Like many search engines, the BOK was easy to use. But what struck me was the quality of the information the search returned. It was specific to my topic, and I didn't have to dig deeply into the results to find the information I wanted.

That experience made me think about ideas, which led me to this quote from Plato: "Ideas rule the world, and as the human mind will receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance." The idea for ASSE's BOK was first discussed in 1998, when the Society's Council on Practices and Standards began to take on a more strategic and visionary role as steward of the profession's body of knowledge. To ensure that the SH&E profession continues to prosper, grow and gain professional recognition, ASSE leaders realized we had to define our practices, and assemble, advance and sustain our own body of knowledge.

Initially, we focused on compiling a list of publications, books and articles that SH&E professionals use to implement effective management programs. By 2003, that vision had evolved and expanded. We wanted to ensure that our body of knowledge would be user-friendly and readily available, so we surveyed members and published a white paper that recommended new standards and suggested a need to define professional competencies. Those efforts moved the needle, but the real a-ha moment came in 2008, when two members, Fred Fanning and Jeff Camplin, shared their ideas for turning the BOK into a living resource that would perpetually reflect current practice.

Today, just 4 years later, the BOK includes more than 6,000 assets, and more than 3,000 members have registered for and are using the site. The growing number of assets and users are a testament to the power of ideas-not just the culminating idea, but also all those that led the way. The BOK has developed over the past 15 years, and it is a shining example of how we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.

Building on previous successes to influence the world is something most people find motivating. In fact, a recent Harris Poll found that 97% of Generation Y want careers that allow them "to have an impact on the world."

As SH&E professionals, don't we share a similar palpable hunger to make the world safer? In How to Change the World, David Bornstein says, "[We] are ready to roll up our sleeves and dig in to fix, or at least substantially address the very problems that evade governments and established institutions." ASSE is committed to lead by fostering new ideas, valuing innovation and creating a vision for a better tomorrow. We speak of the "influence" of an idea, and say that ideas are "contagious." Bornstein sees it this way: "We know that when the ripening of an idea is due, when the hour strikes, that idea will spread with a force that nothing can resist."

ASSE's goals to become a primary source of SH&E knowledge, the voice of the profession and a thought leader are such ideas. Another example is the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability. In just 1 year, the center has elevated workplace safety as a key component of corporate sustainability efforts.

So, let's build on our momentum. Let's draw public attention to workplace fatalities. Recent BLS statistics show that 4,609 people died from on-the-job injuries in the U.S. in 2011. That's 13 people each day who will never return home to their families.

We must actively advocate for workplace safety. We must define significant SH&E problems and collaborate with our stakeholders to find solutions. We must actively share and discuss our ideas so they can be considered, refined and pursued. As a profession, we must dream, innovate and invent.

ASSE's BOK started as an idea. It expanded and grew, and it is now poised to become a significant tool for current and future SH&E practitioners. What's your big idea? We'd love to hear it. It just might lead to a new way of preventing workplace injuries and illnesses.