2013 National Safety Congress & Expo, Chicago, McCormick Place, The Art Institute of Chicago

The Big Show Returns to Chicago

Oct. 1's third keynote session, a new addition to the educational program this year, looks like a "must attend" session of its own: the Prescription Drug Keynote.

Back home once again in "sweet home Chicago," the National Safety Council will open its 2013 Congress & Expo event on Sept. 28 at the city's McCormick Place convention center. The center originally opened in 1960 and has been expanded several times since then; this year's Congress & Expo takes place a century after the council was created.

Billed by the council as the world's largest annual "must attend" event for EH&S professionals, the Congress always features a strong and varied educational program and the largest expo hall of the year for this industry. The council's preview materials say the Sept. 30-Oct. 2 expo will have more than 850 exhibitors filling 190,000 net square feet of space.

The city's high temperature at the start of October averages about 70 degrees F, and the overnight low temperature at that time is 51 degrees.

Keynote Sessions
Keynote sessions will take place in the Skyline Ballroom, Level 3 of McCormick Place West, as will Monday's opening session at 8:30-10 a.m. Council President & CEO Janet Froetscher will join NSC Board Chairman Kent McElhattan and former astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, commander of space shuttle Endeavour's final mission and husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who was wounded by a gunman while meeting with constituents in January 2011.

Tuesday, Oct. 1 offers a very inviting slate of keynotes:

  • E. Scott Geller and Charlie Morecraft will team up again this year to present the Motivational Keynote, "The Human Side of Injury Prevention," 8-10 a.m.
  • The Occupational Keynote is "The Future of Workplace Safety and the Impact on the Safety Profession," 12:30-2 p.m. Former ALCOA CEO Paul O’Neill, legendary for his insistence on safety as that company's highest priority, is slated to join OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels and NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard for this session, with Simon Herriott, managing director of Global Consulting Solutions for DuPont Sustainable Solutions, serving as moderator.
  • The day's third keynote, a new addition to the educational program this year that looks like a "must attend" session of its own, is the Prescription Drug Keynote, 2:30-4 p.m. The two invited speakers are Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., the House Appropriations chairman who has made drug abuse one of his top priorities.

Dale Lesinski, vice president of DiVal Safety Equipment, will present The Leadership Keynote Wednesday, Oct. 2 at 8-9 a.m. His title is "Safe 4 the Right Reasons."

Educational Content
Professional development seminars of varying durations (1.5, 2.5, 3, or 4 days) are being presented throughout the conference. NSC’s Campbell Institute, www.thecampbellinstitute.org, is involved in the fifth year of the Executive Edge Track, which consists of an Oct. 1 panel ("The Future of Risk Management") and two workshops the same day ("What You Don't Know – EHS, Risk Management and Leading Indicators" and "Big Data, Small Planet – Analytics, Sustainability, and Enterprise Risk").

The main educational program's tracks include Fleet Driver and Transportation Safety, Emerging Issues (GHS and prescription drug misuse at work are some of the topics addressed in this one), Training, Research to Practice, Construction/Labor/Utilities, Risk Reduction and Management, and Young Professionals. In fact, many promising young professionals are likely to be present: The council accepted nominations for its NSC Rising Stars of Safety earlier this year and announced those who were selected would receive discounted admission to the Congress & Expo. This program, presented by DuPont Sustainable Solutions, recognizes individuals younger than 40 who have distinguished themselves by improving workplace safety. "The National Safety Council is focusing on Leading Safety into Future this coming fall at the 2013 NSC Congress & Expo. Supporting and engaging the next generation of safety leaders will be crucial to addressing the emerging safety issues that require action," said Froetscher.

Ergonomics, leadership, arc flash/NFPA 70E, fall protection, GHS/HazCom, business continuity, liability during safety inspections, effective training for non-English speakers, hexavalent chromium, OSHA’s construction confined spaces rule, cell phone policies, social media, blended online and classroom training, and slip & fall prevention are just a sampling of the topics addressed by technical sessions Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Professional Development Seminars on Thursday and Friday require a separate registration and fee; these are one-day seminars devoted to one of these topics: the NFPA 70E standard, ergonomics, safety communication, safety culture excellence, managing contractors’ safety, stopping and redirecting unsafe operations, reducing slips and falls, and GHS.

McCormick Place and Chicago
The council negotiated lower room rates with a dozen official hotels, but it's common during this event when it takes place here for some exhibitors and attendees to stay in hotels far from downtown. That's sure to be the case again for this Congress & Expo because of Chicago's popularity as a destination city.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Choose Chicago President and CEO Don Welsh announced in May 2013 that 46.2 million people visited the city in 2012, a near-record and equal to pre-recession numbers. Overnight leisure visitation rose by 10.2 percent year over year. "Choose Chicago is well on its way to meeting and exceeding my goal of 50 million annual visitors by 2020," Emanuel said. "These results clearly show that a strategic approach to marketing our great city can and will produce significant economic benefits, including new jobs and tax revenues. I welcome all visitors to Chicago and look forward to more and more people enjoying our wonderful city."

"These are incredible results and are largely a result of how we are proactively and aggressively marketing our destination," Welsh said. "Of particular note is the near-record occupancy rate of 75.2 percent in 2012, an increase of 4.1 percent over the 2011 level of 72.2 percent. This was accomplished even when the city had 1.63 million more available rooms than the city had in the peak visitation year of 2007."

If Emanuel's goal of 50 million visitors by the year 2020 is achieved, it means the city will have attracted more than 10 million more people than the 39.25 million who visited it in 2010, according to the convention bureau.

The newest wrinkle at McCormick place is the completed $110 million expansion and renovation of the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, a 1,260-room hotel that's now the city's fourth largest.

The downtown Art Institute of Chicago is a mecca for art lovers, and a rarely seen and outstanding exhibit on display during the Congress & Expo is "Beyond the Great Wave: Hokusai's Images of Mount Fuji," selected prints from Katsushika Hokusai's Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji series.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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