Global Safety Leaders Show Up, Make ASSE's PDC a Party

"The bottom line is that we're better when we work together," said U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, "and I look forward to decades more, sharing an unwaivering commitment to improving worker safety and health."

CHICAGO--Confetti filled the capacious Skyline Ballroom here this morning at Chicago's McCormick Place West convention center at the conclusion of the opening general session to kick off day two of Safety 2011. The party atmosphere was very much in line with the happy birthday wishes safety leaders from around the world took turns bestowing from the stage in honor of the American Society of Safety Engineers' first 100 years as a society.

ASSE President Darryl Hill, Ph.D., CSP, recounted the society's long history, beginning with its formation in 1911 soon after the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York, which took 146 lives, mostly those of young female workers. From that "modest beginning" to today's worldwide membership totaling 34,000, the society has been integrally involved in all aspects of workplace safety and reform, with a goal of making sure workers go home safely every day, Hill said.

"As our world becomes smaller each day, ASSE ensures our industry has a place at the table in international discussions about improving workplace safety," he said. "Through our efforts today, we are setting a course for a safer world. . . . The past has brought us many tragedies and triumphs, as will the future."

Following Hill's remarks, a parade of safety leaders from around the world took turns at the podium to congratulate and thank ASSE for the work its many members have done in its first century as a society.

National Safety Council President and CEO Janet Froetscher noted that ASSE and NSC share "a deep passion for the mission" both organizations have before them. "We share a common vision," she said. "ASSE on the safety professional, NSC on safety within organizations. It's a combination that makes for dramatic difference in the lives of all workers. . . . We congratulate you on these first 100 years. It's a huge and important milestone, but we have a long way to go, and we look forward to working together in the years ahead."

Peter Sturm, CHSC, CRSP, president of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, likewise extolled the virtues of ASSE's mission, and the benefits CSSE has derived from working with the society. "CSSE has a true friend in ASSE," he said. "The past 10 years have seen incredible growth at CSSE, and we attribute that in part to our relationship with ASSE."

Presenting one of the first birthday gifts of the morning, Sturm begifted Hill on behalf of ASSE with an ornately carved "talking stick," which he explained was a symbol of power in the West Coast Canadian tradition; the holder of such a stick is granted exclusive attention as the one to be listened to, he said. The stick--which features carvings of a thunderbird ("protector of people"), a beaver ("skillful builder"), a wolf ("protector of families"), and a raven ("concerned with the betterment of mankind")--was made especially for the occasion.

"In giving this stick, we recognize ASSE as a premier organization and a premier protector of workers, their families, and society," Sturm said. "ASSE is a great organization and CSSE celebrates this fact with this symbol of the partnership and friendship and CSSE's commitment to stand beside you for the next 100 years. It symbolizes our wish that CSSE will be part of your future."

Steve Granger, CMIOSH, president of the United Kingdom-based Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, also bestowed a unique, original gift--a wooden "friendship cup" made in Ireland and inlaid with 25-karat gold. "This is not only a birthday present but a symbol of the abiding friendship and sustained commitment to communication between our organizations," Granger said. "It is evident that the world look to the organizations represented in this room as leaders in the field."

Tony Mitchell, CPMSIA, RSP, national vice president of the Safety Institute of Australia next took the stage. "Can I start with a, 'Crikey, what an audience!'" he exclaimed. "I bring hearty congratulations to you all and celebrate the history of cooperation our organizations have in our collective objectives to improve our science and improve the safety, health, and well being of our people. The SIA looks forward to further strengthening and pursuing our ties with ASSE as we both work for better outcomes."

Addressing the audience remotely from Washington, D.C., and displayed on the giant video screens that filled the hall, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis congratulated ASSE for "100 years of being on the frontlines of protecting workers on the job. Today, as we celebrate your progress and look to the next 100 years, we reflect on our four decades of close cooperation. . . . The bottom line is that we're better when we work together, and I look forward to decades more, sharing an unwaivering commitment to improving worker safety and health."

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