The Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia is the host site for the 2011 National Safety Congress & Expo. (Paul Loftland photo)

All Aboard for Safety

Historic Reading Railroad Terminal is the site of the National Safety Congress & Expo’s long-awaited return to Philadelphia.

In 1915, the 1,700-member National Safety Council held its fourth Safety Congress at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Ninety-six years later, the now 51,000-member organization has once again chosen the City of Brotherly Love as the site for its 2011 Congress & Expo. This time, the event will take place at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which is housed in a structure older than NSC itself -- now in its 98th year.

In 1993, the Pennsylvania Convention Center relocated to the Reading Railroad Terminal, which had been shut down in 1985. Built in 1893, the terminal was a grand testament to the railroad boom of the 19th century. Reputed to be the largest iron single-span roof in the nation at the time, the terminal’s 95-foot-high train shed spanned 13 tracks.

Today, Reading Terminal's preserved train shed arch (the last remaining free-span train shed arch in the country) and the original passenger station and company headquarters make up part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and attached Marriott Hotel. In March 2011, the center underwent a large expansion, enlarging the facility to 2.3 million square feet, which is the largest contiguous exhibit space in the Northeast.

Now ushering in a new generation of "passengers," the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Reading Railroad Terminal represent a convergence of past and present industries.

Conducting Improvement
Taking place Oct. 30-Nov. 4, this year's Congress & Expo is set to attract a bigger crowd than last year’s event in San Diego, which drew more than 12,000 attendees. According to Debbie Riedner, NSC's communications manager, exhibitor and attendee participation in August was up more than 15 percent from 2010. The uptick in participation bodes well for NSC, which has made "the Pursuit of Continuous Improvement" the theme for this month's event.

The A Train of Events and Solutions
The Opening Session will kick at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 31, with a presentation from DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman. She will be joined by Peter Sheahan, CEO of ChangeLabs; Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of NSC; and Kent McElhattan, chairman of NSC’s board of directors.

Following that Halloween-morn session is the Executive Forum, "Leading and Sustaining Change," which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Leaders sharing their insights will include Connie Bayne, CSP, senior vice president and manager of Underwriting Support Services for Liberty Mutual Group; Linda Burtwistle, president of First Student Inc.; and Bryan O'Connor, chief of safety and mission assurance for NASA. A question-and-answer session will follow their presentation.

On Monday evening, attendees will be treated to treats (but no tricks) in the form of live entertainment, hors d'oeuvres, and drinks during Rock'n Community: Connections for a Cause (formerly called the Welcome Reception) at the convention center's level 400 terrace. Costumes are optional.

The Occupational Keynote on Tuesday, Nov. 1, from 10:30 a.m. to noon will examine the value of safety management systems and efforts federal agencies are taking to encourage employers to implement such systems. The "Safety Management Systems: An Emerging Federal Agency Priority" presentation will feature Assistant Secretary of Labor Dr. David Michaels. Invited speakers include FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health Joseph A. Main.

After the keynote, from 1 to 1:30 p.m., OSHA will announce its top 10 most-cited violations for fiscal year 2011. An OSHA representative will present the numbers, provide analysis, and take questions at booth 3635.

A new feature on this year's program is "Solutions from ISEA Experts" from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday at booth 3635, with a panel of safety equipment experts discussing how to avoid violations and what equipment manufacturers are doing to make workers safer. ISEA President Dan Shipp will moderate the panel, which consists of Dr. Theresa Shultz, hearing conservation manager for Honeywell/Sperian; Marty Lorkowski, global marketing manager for Scott Safety; Tom Wolner, vice president of engineering for Capital Safety; and Eric Beck, director of product planning and marketing for Mine Safety Appliances Co.

The conference features more than 130 technical sessions in 10 tracks, including construction/labor/utilities, fleet driving and transportation, and safety management systems. Hot topics include "Complacency: The Silent Killer," "Inside Out: Rethinking Safety Management Paradigms," and "Unlocking the Code to Human Error."

The Executive Edge returns to the expo this year. Its aim is to engage business leaders and advance environmental health and safety through direct peer-to-peer exchanges.

Many of the winning products in the OH&S 2011 New Product of the Year contest will be displayed in the expo hall, and winners will receive their trophies at their booths during the first two days of the expo.

Down the Track
Next year's Congress & Expo will take place Oct. 21-26 in Orlando, Fla., and the 2013 edition will be held Sept. 29-Oct. 4 in Chicago for the event's centennial.

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

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