Commit to Ending Preventable Deaths, NSC's Hersman Says

Data and technology will help us meet the council's goal, she says at the opening general session of the 2016 NSC conference.

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Safety professionals by the thousands thronged the Anaheim Convention Center on Oct. 17 as the 2016 National Safety Congress & Expo, the biggest annual U.S. show for the safety and occupational health industry, got under way in earnest here. The day's opening session featured former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw as the keynote speaker, introduced by National Safety Council CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman, and both gave inspirational speeches about the importance of teamwork and commitment.

Hersman talked about fulfilling the "moonshot" goal set by the council in May 2016 of eliminating preventable deaths in our lifetime. "We are at an all-time high of preventable deaths," she said, adding that 130,000 occur annually in the United States – falls, motor vehicle crashes, drownings, and more. If each conference attendee focused on achieving the goal for his or her own team, own company, "We can do it," Hersman said.

She cited the example of occupational fatalities due to exposure to electricity, which killed 577 workers in a single year in the early 1980s, she said. Strong codes were passed and electrical companies launched awareness campaigns, and as a result, the number fell significantly – in 2014, 154 such workplace deaths were recorded. "That's still far too many, but the solutions that were put in place years ago are helping us get closer to zero every year," she said.

Hersman also told the capacity crowd for the session that this year's Congress & Expo will feature Scott Geller of Safety Performance Solutions and Charlie Morecraft of Phoenix Safety Management jointly presenting a Motivational Keynote at an NSC annual conference for the final time. They've reached 100,000 people through their NSC keynotes, Hersman said.

Bradshaw's speech was funny and heartfelt. He mentioned that one of his three daughters had totaled her car some years ago because she was texting while driving, something Bradshaw, 68, said she had owned up to two years after the fact. "We need everybody cooperating. Everybody has got to get along and work together," he said.

Bradshaw said he's very conscientious about risk and has been injured several times during his life, both during and after his professional football career. "I know I'm going to die," he said. "I'm going to take a graveyard nap someday. But I don't want to die stupid."

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