Live from ASSE: Dirty Pictures and the Ghost of Chris Farley

With more than 500 exhibitors on hand, all simultaneously vying for attention -- and with a recordbreaking number of attendees on the receiving end of that vying -- this year's show is especially bustling.

CHICAGO -- Part of the fun of attending ASSE's annual Professional Development Conference, this year better known as Safety 2011, taking place now at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center, is walking the expo floor and checking out the products and services on display, many of which are being introduced for the very first time. This year, more than 500 exhibitors are vying for attention -- and with a recordbreaking number of attendees on the receiving end, this event is especially bustling.

Here are just a few of the sights and sounds that grabbed our attention June 13, to give you an idea:

Australia-based Sensear (its U.S. office is in Larkspur, Calif.) set up shop under a ginormous set of headphones. The eye-catching booth is actually a replica of the company's flagship product, a "high-noise communication device" that isolates and enhances speech while suppressing background noise. Different models are on display. Chief Marketing Officer David Cannington says all of them deliver 360 degrees binaural situational awareness to ensure users have complete awarneness of what is happening around them. "It's a new approach to hearing protection that combines communication, awareness, and protection, and none of our competitors can deliver these three benefits in one unit the way we can," he said.

At the Convergence Training booth, a Chris Farley impersonator is attracting passersby by delivering a dead-on rendering of Matt Foley, the sweaty, overly large, would-be motivational speaker who lived in a trailer "down by the river." Farley made the recurring character a popular favorite on "Saturday Night Live" with his flailing arms and in-your-face antics, and Convergence's replica looks just like him. The Vancouver, Wash.-based company offers learning management software and custom training materials for the industrial market, specializing in the pulp and paper, mining, packaging/converting, manufacturing, and legal/forensic markets.

The Draeger booth features a touch of eye-grabbing elegance in the form of a unique chandelier dangling from the sweeping, hangar-like structure that arches overhead. This one-of-a-kind, highly appropriate creation is formed of hundreds of the company's colorimetric gas detection tubes of assorted colors. It is a neat touch, but the reason Draeger has come to town is to tell attendees about the new X-zone 5000, a portable area monitor that uses wireless technology patented by Draeger to group up to 25 gas monitors to create a local area alarm network. It can be used for confined space work, perimeter monitoring, and more.

DuPont Protection Technologies is using Safety 2011 as the occasion to launch the "Dirty Work Photo Contest." The idea is for wearers of DuPont's popular Tyvek garments to submit pictures of themselves in their filthiest state, showing what they look like wearing the duds after completing their particular type of dirty work. All people who wear Tyvek on the job and are older than 18 are eligible to enter the contest. Entries will be judged based on how well the Tyvek garment and "dirty work" project are portrayed in the photo (which should not show or depict a person in danger or in an unsafe condition). Winners will be announced at the National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Philadelphia in November. The grand prize winner will receive a NASCAR Racing Experience weekend trip for two to learn how to drive a stock car. The first runner up will receive a $500 American Express gift card, and the next two runners up will each receive a $250 Amex gift card. For eligibility, official rules, and an entry form, go to www.tyvekphotocontest.dupont.com. The website just went live. It's not all fast cars and dirty pictures at the DuPont booth, though. The company is also here to further spread the news about SafeSPEC 2.0, an interactive online tool that the company introduced in April. Designed for the layperson and professional alike, the tool helps anyone make informed decisions about selecting the right chemical protective apparel for the job. It allows users to search by parameters that are tailored to their needs, including fabric, design, certification, and EPA/OSHA designation and hazard. The tool also provides industry-specific searches for construction; manufacturing; transportation and utilities; agriculture and public administration; mining; and oil and gas extraction. For more information, visit www.safespec.dupont.com.

Speaking of oil and gas extraction, Majestic Glove (Everett, Wash.) came to Safety 2011 in part to introduce its new line of petrochemical gloves, the Knucklehead X10. This line of super-heavy-duty hand protection features a sturdy "double-wishbone" PVC palm for grip, an elastic wrist to decrease the chances of a snag or pulling, Kevlar cut resistance, a Thinsulate winter lining, and water and hydrocarbon resistance. It comes in four models, including hi-vis orange and hi-vis yellow options.

North by Honeywell's newest product, the North Adaptec Protective Eyewear System, is impact protective eyewear that adjusts to three sizes. Even the nosepiece adjusts to ensure that the wearer's eyes are focused on the center of the lenses, offering maximum protective coverage. Adaptec fits narrow, regular, and wide faces comfortably, according to the company.

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