Safety 2009: Big Enough for Texas
SAN ANTONIO -- Safety 2009 delivered on its promise as the must-attend U.S. safety conference of this year. The heat was on--especially when we ventured outdoors--but the American Society of Safety Engineers again delivered a welcome boost to the industry in June.
The meeting's highlights included big promises and new initiatives from the U.S. Labor Department’s top brass, big investments and plans by some of the largest companies in this marketplace, and palpable optimism among exhibitors and safety professionals who attended the event at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio.
Conversations during the meeting provided updates on several recent notable deals in the industry, international activities and prospects, and new product launches timed for this conference and for two larger events this fall: the National Safety Congress (Oct. 26-28 in Orlando, Fla.) and A+A 2009 (Nov. 3-6 in Dusseldorf, Germany, with show organizers announcing in June that exhibitor space will exceed 500,000 square feet again this year). Read on for more information about these developments.
Honeywell Life Safety/North Safety Products
China continues to be a very promising market, one that puts its stimulus money to use much faster than the United States has managed with its own stimulus funds, and India also is promising, said Mark Levy, president of Honeywell Life Safety, and Bill Hayes, president of Honeywell Safety Products. Honeywell Life Safety includes Honeywell Safety Products--parent of North Safety Products, BW Technologies by Honeywell, Salisbury, Honeywell Analytics, Gamewell-FCI, System Sensor, Silent Knight by Honeywell, and several other units. Honeywell Life Safety is based in Northford, Conn.
The North business was "80 percent North America" when Honeywell acquired it for $1.2 billion last year but is being rapidly globalized. The goal is to have 50 percent of the safety business originating in North America and 50 percent in the rest of the world in the next two years, Levy said. "We're racing ahead; we're hiring," he said, citing technology and distribution centers in Shanghai and initiatives elsewhere. "We're greatly enhancing our global opportunities. Life Safety is the most global [Honeywell] business, and we're just thinking about the world all day. We've designed our products and our distribution for the global markets. It's a very deliberate, methodical way we develop this."
Speaking of North, he said, "We've invested a lot. We own it; we're here to build it, invest in it, and, long term, really grow the business." Levy cited a $20 million capital improvement budget for North this year--several times more than the company spent annually on capital improvements before the acquisition, he said. Salisbury is opening a new world headquarters in Bolingbrook, Ill., that is "approaching a $10 million investment," he said. "We're automating one of our respiratory cartridge lines that's 20 to 30 years old. We're spending $3 million to $3.5 million on that. So we're attacking it on all fronts," Levy said.
Hayes said since the acquisition, hundreds of North employees have received Six Sigma Green Belt training and Honeywell Operating System training. The acquisition closed in only 39 days, and the integration took just nine months. Proposals to invest and build capacity and presence in Latin America and Asia have been approved almost immediately by Honeywell corporate, said Hayes. "This just resonates with our guys. We're investing for the long term; we're going for it," he said. "This great recession is a crisis. We're not wasting this opportunity; we're taking advantage and positioning ourselves to come out of it really strong."
DuPont/Coastal Training Technologies Corp.
DuPont's booth at Safety 2009 was equally branded with the name and logo of Coastal, which DuPont acquired in a deal completed on Oct. 14, 2008. Since then, DuPont has worked on the integration of the company and on taking DuPont's extensive content to the marketplace via Coastal's delivery technologies--"their ability to offer blended learning in almost any form that you wanted, whether it be instructor-led training, whether it be e-learning, whether it be video on demand; a variety of ways," said Jim Weigand, vice president and general manager of DuPont Safety Resources.
Set for release in July 2009 is a DuPont energy management series that will be available from Coastal. Starting with a July 21 webinar, it will consist of 16 e-learning modules and a DVD, said Phil Price, president and chief operating officer of Coastal. Coastal recently released an arc flash program that utilizes DuPont engineers' expertise, and an incident investigation program will be released soon, Price said.
"DuPont two or three months ago was named one of the most ethical companies in the world," Weigand said. "We took all of the ethics content that we had internally and have now turned it over to Coastal and said, 'Let's look at how we grow.' Because Coastal already had an ethics vertical, but now we're taking all the DuPont content. What we're trying to do is really have a broad offering that can be delivered in any format around the world.... When we look broadly at the safety space--and not [only] in the safety space--I don't think there's anyone that can match us with the content, with the technology, or with the footprint we have around the world."
The combined offering of deep, trusted content from both companies with cutting-edge technology to deliver it works well in this weak economy, when training and travel budgets are lean, they and Deborah Hodgson-Lyons, global manager, Marketing and Sales, said. "I've given talks where I've said safety is good business. And in times like these, that's a difficult sell because companies are cutting their safety staffs. DuPont and Coastal give them a way to train their staffs efficiently at any point along the [technology] continuum," Weigand said.
He and Price noted Coastal's personnel roster has not changed since the acquisition. "We're still committed to growth," said Weigand. "I think the economy has let us work on the integration a little bit harder and work on the content piece. When clients are ready, we have the offering for them."
"We see a lot of opportunity in the future to provide more content to our customers," Price agreed. He said the synergy often talked about in the wake of a merger or acquisition is real this time. Coastal was founded to further safety skills and compliance, and it grew from there to technology plus safety skills and compliance, and then to culture change plus technology plus safety skills and compliance, Price explained. This dovetails perfectly with DuPont Safety Resources because DSR always has focused its offerings on lasting culture change, he said.
Hodgson-Lyons said DuPont could not have turned its content into commercial training products this quickly without Coastal's help. The knowledge was always there, but the Coastal expertise was vital, she said.
New and Upcoming Products
On July 1, ASSE announced more than 380 companies had exhibited at the conference, with exhibitors coming from across the United States and also Canada, Taiwan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Korea. Fall protection, training & software, gloves, and protective apparel were the best-represented product categories. Poster sessions on the expo floor came from the United States, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
New products exhibited at the show included Compton, Calif.-based FallTech's patent-pending ecoAnchor, billed as the world's first fall protection anchorage that is filled with water; a line of chainless, airless industrial bicycles from Rugged Cycles of Corpus Christi, Texas; Hygenall™ Industrial Skin Decontamination Towels from SKC Inc. of Eighty Four, Pa.; anti-slip metal flooring from SlipNot® of Detroit, Mich.; ResourceNOW™, an online safety training and compliance system from CLMI of Minneapolis; The Original DSPA, a dry sprinkler powder aerosol used to suppress fires that was exhibited by E4 Safety Professionals, LLC of Sunbury, Ohio; and the N-tune® Seating System, a line of chairs, stands, and accessories from Neutral Posture of Bryan, Texas, that is intended to improve users' health by raising their work desks' height from 30 to 40 inches and chairs to stool height so the users easily stand up to work periodically.
Kimberly-Clark Professional Safety Division (Roswell, Ga.) Senior Category Manager David Matela said his company will announce two big product launches this fall, in time for the National Safety Congress and A+A 2009: apparel that offers barrier protection with breatheability and flexibility, and a new-generation hearing protection product. KCP acquired Jackson Safety (Fenton, Mo.) in April 2009, and their combination is working well, said Matela and Katie Parmentier, Jackson Safety's vice president of marketing and product development.
Solis, Barab Announce New Initiatives
The biggest splash of the conference was having both OSHA chief Jordan Barab and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis attend and speak. They announced several new initiatives, including a construction site enforcement blitz in Texas during July 2009, a commitment to hire bilingual inspectors when possible and 130 new inspectors overall, and an increased emphasis on enforcement.
"It isn't a message that should be perceived as negative toward business," Solis said about the Texas effort during a brief June 29 news conference. "We're here to also provide assistance, outreach, information, and, hopefully, technical assistance that has been sorely needed. We don't want to just have a relationship where people just stay in Washington and don't come out. We want to have a very active, robust OSHA program."
Solis said she could not predict how long Barab will be leading OSHA in an acting capacity. "As you know, it takes time to get confirmed through the [U.S.] Senate," she said. "Obviously, the acting director is a very important position, and I didn't want to wait to see what would happen in the Senate. . . . The president will be nominating someone to serve in the capacity to oversee the agency, but, again, it takes time. I still have other individuals that are going through the pipeline and have already been in for more than four months, and we've seen no vote."
Barab has extensive safety experience, having previously worked as a special assistant to the OSHA assistant secretary in 1998-2001, for the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, and for the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. He spoke June 29 at a meeting of Safety Professionals and the Latino Workforce, an ASSE Common Interest Group, where he urged the audience to help OSHA recruit bilingual employees. "We need to hire a lot more people and really diversify OSHA. We are really in a hiring mode," Barab said.
He mentioned a confined space triple fatality at a waste transfer plant in Queens, N.Y., earlier that day, when hydrogen sulfide gas killed three men. "When it comes to confined spaces, trenches, lockout/tagout, all of that -- we really shouldn't have anyone in this country dying of that stuff." Barab said. Employers have or can easily obtain the knowledge and the tools to prevent such fatalities and should be penalized if they won't use them, he added.
Barab also said he has many changes in mind for www.osha.gov, which is one of the world's most popular safety Web sites. While useful, the site does not indicate there are workers dying and being hurt on the job every day, he said, meaning it really does not explain the rationale for OSHA to exist, Barab said.
Looking Ahead to Safety 2010
Next year's ASSE annual conference will take place June 13-16 at the Baltimore Convention Center (www.bccenter.org). ASSE will then be looking forward to 2011, its centennial year.