The National Safety Council's Congress & Expo returns this month to Orlando with a lofty lineup.
Anyone who has participated in any of the National
Safety Council's 95 previous annual
Congresses might have a hard time taking literally
the theme of the 2009 version of the event:
"Beyond Your Wildest Expectations." That's because most
in the industry already recognize it as the biggest show in
the safety kingdom, and this year, despite the execrable
economy, the preliminary numbers are setting up to maintain
that tradition. Even if the turnout for the show, set for
Oct. 25-30, falls short of its usual 16,000 safety, health, and
environmental management professionals — including
some 800 exhibitors showcasing their wares at the attendant
Expo — more people will be making their way to Orlando's
Orange County Convention Center to attend than
for any similar event this year. We've come to expect that.
Given our previous Congress & Expo experiences, we
also will be expecting the most luminous safety leaders in
the land to be on hand, giving us insight on the state of the
safety union and, hopefully, some inspiration to take home.
The lineup for the Occupational Keynote on Tuesday, Oct.
27, from 10:30 a.m.-noon should accomplish all that and
then some. Titled "Occupational Safety and Health Under
the Obama Administration," the presentation will feature
CDC consultant and former NIOSH chief Dr. John Howard,
former OSHA head John Henshaw, the University of
Washington School of Public Health's Dr. Michael Silverstein,
and, at press time, OSHA's acting leader Jordan Barab.
Depending on how quickly the confirmation process goes,
the latter could be replaced at the podium by Dr. David
Michaels, the George Washington University research
professor and epidemiologist whom, in late July, President
Obama selected to take Barab's place at OSHA's helm.
Because of the current recession's reach and wrath, it is
not surprising that this year's Congress & Expo is squarely
confronting the economical issues on everyone's minds.
Monday, Oct. 26, will be devoted to the topic, beginning
with the Opening Session at 8 a.m. The session's keynote
address, "Successful Strategies Through Turbulence," will
be delivered by Howard Putnam, who, as the former CEO
of Southwest and Braniff Airlines and group VP of marketing
for United Airlines, should be well acquainted with
both the literal and figurative sides of the subject.
The Executive Forum taking place from 10 a.m.-11:30
a.m. the same day will continue the fiscal discourse, examining
"The Role of the EHS Executive in an Economic
Downturn — How Do We Deal with the Current Conditions
of the Economy Strategically?" Gathering to answer
that question will be a panel of safety experts moderated
by Walt Disney Co. VP and Chief Safety Officer Greg
Hale. Included in the panel will be Mike Murray, president
and CEO for FirstGroup America Inc., which, incidentally,
is this year's NSC Green Cross for Safety™ honoree.
Many of this year's 120 technical sessions will, in smaller
groups, enlarge upon the subject matter of Monday's
auditorium-size presentations. Tuesday's "Selling Safety in
Tough Times," "Cheap Solutions for Fleet Safety," and "A
Fearless Look at Reality" are examples. The technical sessions,
along with the scheduled technical tours and 24 daylong
or multiple-day professional development seminars
add up to a full and memorable 96th Congress & Expo,
an event verily bursting at the seams with educational and
networking opportunities, as usual. But that's just it. The
agenda is filled with timely and relevant topics delivered
by top-notch industry professionals, but these are qualities
NSC regulars have come to expect. Where does the "Beyond
Your Wildest Expectations" motif come in?
Pirates & the Care of Beings
Meet Bill Williams. He is the vice president for Health,
Safety, and Environment at Maersk Inc., a subsidiary of the
Copenhagen, Denmark-based A.P. Moller-Maersk Group,
the largest container ship and supply vessel operator in
the world. On Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m.,
Williams will deliver a talk titled "Freed from the Pirates'
Hands — Prepared for Crisis." Many in attendance will no
doubt recall the dramatic tale from April of this year when
the Maersk Alabama was hijacked by pirates and its captain
was held hostage for four days. But few will know the
details of the captain's rescue, nor how Maersk's crisis management
system trains, communicates, and equips its employees
to face such dangers and return to safety. Even for
NSC, which has been holding these conventions for close
to 100 years now, Williams' Leadership Keynote will likely
Next year's Congress & Expo convenes on the opposite
coast in San Diego, Oct. 3-8. In 2011, it will be held
in Philadelphia Oct. 30-Nov. 4; in 2012, it will again be in
Orlando, Oct. 19-26, before returning home to Chicago for
the event's 100th anniversary in 2013. For more information,
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
Ronnie Rittenberry is Managing Editor of Occupational Health & Safety.