The 40-foot Big Blue Bear outside the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver is the brainchild of Denver sculptor Lawrence Argent.

Safety 2012: The 'Bear' Necessities

This year's ASSE gathering in Denver will be something of a jungle, booked to the rafters.

It's been nearly a decade since the American Society of Safety Engineers held its annual Professional Development Conference & Exposition in Denver. This time around, attendees can expect to see bigger and better things from both ASSE and the Mile High City.

When attendees convened in Denver for the 2003 PDC, the Colorado Convention Center was a "mere" 37,150 square feet. When attendees walk through the center's doors this June, they will be standing in a facility twice that size -- 75,000 square feet, to be exact. The center now boasts six individual halls, two outdoor terraces offering expansive views of the Rocky Mountains and the Denver skyline, 584,000 contiguous square feet of exhibit and event space, 63 meeting rooms, and a 5,000-seat theater.

Perhaps the most eye-catching addition is the 40-foot-tall Big Blue Bear, which stands outside the convention center's entrance, peering into the lobby. Officially called "I See What You Mean," the bear is made up of more than 4,000 concrete and polymer interlocking triangles and is the brainchild of Denver sculptor Lawrence Argent, who was inspired to create the curious blue behemoth in part by the Rocky Mountain landscape and "the exchange of information, ideas, and ideologies."

In addition to expanding the Colorado Convention Center, the city of Denver has spent more than $8 billion on public projects in the past decade, including adding the Hamilton Wing to the Denver Art Museum and constructing 19 miles of double-track light rail lines and 13 stations along Interstate 25.

ASSE has also undergone a growth spurt in the past decade. Membership has increased from 29,000 in 2003 to 33,000 in 2012. In addition, the number of exhibitors taking part in the event has grown by 50 percent since 2003. This year's show is set to be one of the largest to date. "We're ahead of last year in selling square footage of expo space," said ASSE PR Manager Diane Hurns. This is significant, because last year's centennial expo in Chicago attracted 475 exhibitors, an all-time high for the event.

Yes Men
OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels will helm the plenary session June 4 from 1 to 2 p.m. He will share his insights with attendees and respond to questions from the session moderator, addressing key issues and concerns pertinent to EH&S professionals on the activities and impact of the federal government.

Speaking that same day at 7:30 a.m. will be Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the book, "Influence," which identifies and explains universal principals of persuasion that move others toward answering yes. He will discuss what scientific research tells us about the persuasive approaches that make people most likely to say yes to requests. He translates the scientific research into practical business applications. On June 5, the featured speaker will be Dr. Lowell B. Catlett, professor in the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. He will discuss the current economic climate and forecast the business sectors that will grow and those that will become obsolete in the United States.

New to the show this year will be a luncheon presentation on June 6 from noon to 1:30 p.m. Bruce S. Wilkinson, CSP, will discuss how to make safety and health a value and develop a culture of personal responsibility for effective leadership and safe behavior at work and home. In conjunction with the luncheon, the Board of Certified Safety Professionals will hold its first Award of Excellence ceremony to recognize safety professionals who are committed to the advancement of the SH&E industry.

'Higher' Education
A strong lineup of education sessions complements the event's high-caliber speakers. According to Hurns, hot topics for education sessions this year include "Regulation of Nanotechnology" by Ann. M. Minzner Conley and Eugene P. Wingert of Chubb & Son Inc.; "Putting PPE Solutions to the Test -– On-site Pour Testing for PPE Evaluation" by Matthew R. Jones and Tyler Thatcher of Chapman Innovations (CarbonX); "Is the Safety On or Off? OSHA Takes Aim at Workplace Violence" by Matthew T. Deffebach of Haynes and Boone LLP; and "Update: Do You Really Know What's Going on in Your Fleet?" by Del Lisk of DriveCam.

Returning to the show this year will be key-issue roundtables on a variety of topics, including "America's Changing Manufacturing Workforce," "Construction Regulations," and "Globally Harmonized System of Chemical Classification & Labeling." On June 6, the Executive Summit Panel, consisting of CEOs, presidents, and vice presidents from a range of industries, will offer advice and strategies that can help EH&S professionals overcome organizational obstacles and be more effective leaders.

An Abundance of Greenery
ASSE is taking advantage of Denver's sweeping landscape and mild climate by offering a number of outdoor guest tours. On June 3, the ASSE Foundation will host its sixth annual Golf Outing at Fossil Trace Golf Club. Nestled adjacent to the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, the golf course sits atop land where dinosaurs roamed 64 million years ago. Guest tours include Mountain Magic in Vail, which will cover Vail Village, Lionshead Village, and the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, the highest alpine garden in the world. For thrill-seeking attendees, the Day on the River tour will offer a rafting excursion down Clear Creek, a steep, challenging river. Technical tours selected by local ASSE chapter members will allow attendees to observe safety practices in a variety of settings, including the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the Kroenke Sports Venue.

Next year’s conference will take place June 24-27 in Las Vegas.

This article originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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