It's 'Bean' a Very Good Year

. . . for ASSE, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary and this month returns home to Chicago for its 44th annual professional development conference.

When the American Society of Safety Engineers held its first professional development conference in 1968 at Michigan State University, the event had a grand total attendance of 145. This year, when the Des Plaines, Ill.-based society convenes for the first time ever on its home Chicago turf, there likely will seem to be more people than that staffing the Sperian Protection booth alone (that's Booth 777, if you happen to be reading this from the expo floor).

Taking place June 12-15 on the shore of Lake Michigan at Chicago's McCormick Place, Safety 2011 is set to be the society's largest gathering to date. According to ASSE PR Manager Diane Hurns, the first week of April -- two months ahead of the show -- was the busiest registration week ever for the annual event, now in its 44th year.

"We had about 3,000 registrations in that one week, so we're getting up there, and we're certain to break the attendance record," Hurns said. That record, previously set at the 2008 PDC in Las Vegas, was 3,859, representing environmental health and safety professionals from almost 40 countries. "Also, we've continued to break records in the selling of exhibition space, which already has exceeded last year's space." This is significant because the 61,500 square feet sold for the Safety 2010 expo in Baltimore held the record.

Thinking Pink
Part of the appeal of ASSE's annual event, long recognized as one of the strongest safety shows in the nation, is the caliber of its educational offerings and insight from some of the biggest names in the industry. This year's show will be no exception, offering more than 200 educational sessions in 22 tracks covering everything from combustible dust explosions to preventing occupational dog bites.

OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels and NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard will helm a plenary session June 13 from 2 to 3 p.m. They will address questions from a panel of moderators and discuss key issues of EH&S professionals on the activities and impact of the regulatory, standards developments, and compliance assistance efforts of the federal government. Keynoting the same day at 7:30 a.m. will be Daniel Pink, author of the bestselling book "The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us." He will discuss how high performance and satisfaction can be achieved by learning and creating new things. June 14's featured speaker will be Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Goodman Brinker, who is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a leader in the fight against breast cancer.

Pièce de Résistance
This year, in addition to the conference's usual highlights, ASSE is pulling out all the stops for its centennial celebration. On Monday night, Navy Pier will light up for the society's 100th Anniversary Society Gala, which will offer a champagne reception, dinner, open bar, and a performance by the World Class Rockers.

During expo hours, attendees can walk through time in the History Hall exhibit, which will tell the story of workplace safety through the decades. It will feature memorabilia, artifacts, photos, and ASSE milestones. Chapters, regions, practice specialties, and common interest groups will tell their stories and offer information and displays of their activities and events at the specially designated chapter hall pavilion on the expo floor.

Returning to the conference this year will be the Executive Summit Panel featuring CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents from a range of industries. They will share best practices and advice to help EH&S professionals understand what is expected from them and how to interact with senior management. The panelists will answer questions from attendees.

A strong lineup of education sessions for the two days includes "The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" by Chris Connor of Urban Engineers; "OSHA Current Activities Update" by Steven F. Witt, Dorothy Dougherty, and Thomas M. Galassi, all of OSHA; and "Effective Training for Adult Learners" by Christine M. Merli of Chris' Safety and Health Consulting Inc.

'Bean' There, Done That?
Technical and guest tours are geared to highlight Chicago's unique landscape. The technical tours, selected by local ASSE chapter members, will allow attendees to observe safety practices in a variety of settings, including CTA-Heavy Rail Maintenance, the Willis Tower (formerly named the Sears Tower), and the Museum of Science and History. Guest tours include the Windy City Experience, which will cover Lake Shore Drive, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Millennium Park. The Frank Lloyd Wright tour will explore the Oak Park neighborhood, home to 25 buildings designed by the famed architect.

Chicago, the birthplace of the steel railroad and home to the world's first Ferris wheel, the United States' first skyscraper, and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, is a fitting host city for ASSE's 100th anniversary celebration and 44th annual PDC. Next year's conference will take place June 3-6 in Denver, and the 2013 event will be June 10-13 in Las Vegas.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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