ASSE's Mile High Moment
This could be the most consequential annual conference for the society in many years.
- By Jerry Laws
- Jun 01, 2017
As I have predicted elsewhere in this issue (page 4), the imminent voting to change ASSE's name to the American Society of Safety Professionals is "sure to be one of the hottest topics of conversation for those of us who will be in Denver this month to attend the Safety 2017 conference." With that decision in mind, this could be the most consequential annual conference for the society in many years—more than 20 years of attending these conferences for me and for many others whom I know in this profession.
So the Safety 2017 Professional Development Conference & Exposition (www.safety2017.org) should be a memorable meeting indeed. Taking place June 19-22 inside the Colorado Convention Center on 14th Street, the event boasts a superb educational program in a beautiful location. Denver's average high and low temperatures for this month are 81 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
ASSE's brochure highlights the A Line, a fast rail service, priced at $9 each way, between Denver's airport and Union Station downtown. It opened in 2016 and runs trains every 15 minutes between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., making the trip in about 37 minutes. VisitDenver.org's list of "must-see & do Denver" activities starts with its walkable downtown and free shuttle buses on the 16th Street Mall and moves on to the Colorado State Capitol's rotunda, the Denver Art Museum, the U.S. Mint on West Colfax Avenue, the Larimer Square downtown block of restaurants and shopping, and even includes the giant Blue Bear gazing into the convention center's windows. "By an amazing stroke of good luck, the 13th step on the west side of the Colorado State Capitol Building is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level—one mile high. In Denver's rarified air, golf balls go 10 percent farther. So do cocktails. Alcoholic drinks pack more of a punch than at sea level. The Mile High City is also extremely dry, so it is a good idea to drink more water than usual," the website informs visitors. "With less water vapor in the air at this altitude, the sky really is bluer in Colorado."
The ASSE House of Delegates meeting will take place June 19 at the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center, featuring President Tom Cecich, CSP, CIH, giving a report on the state of the society, and that meeting is followed by the Annual Membership Meeting.
The educational program is divided into 22 tracks ranging from construction/mining and executive topics to oil & gas, sustainability, technical/engineering/standards, and transportation.
Shaping up as some of the most timely and useful presentations are ones about construction safety planning, the upcoming ISO 45001 standard on requirements for occupational health and safety management systems (this one, Session 520, starts at 10:45 a.m. on June 20 with an all-star list of presenters, including Kathy Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, an ASSE past president, and Victor Toy, CSP, CIH, who chairs the U.S. Technical Advisory Group on the standard), wearable safety devices, medical marijuana, OSHA's new walking and working surfaces rule, several sessions on fatigue, and new pending ANSI/ASSE construction safety standards, to name only a few.
The Key Issue Roundtables track's sessions are worth a look. They focus on sit/stand workstations, safety climate and culture during economic downturns, dropped object prevention in the oil & gas industry, going paperless with safety, management of fatigued driving, and more.
The brochure promises keynote speakers that include author Tom Morris ("True Success: The Art of Achievement in Times of Change," starting at 7:30 a.m. June 20), Mel Robbins ("From Successful to Satisfied: How to Become the Leader You Want to Be," starting at 7:30 a.m. June 21), Vinh Giang ("Strategy vs. Execution," a luncheon speaker starting at noon June 22), and Joseph Hallinan ("Why We Make Mistakes," the Closing General Session speaker starting at 3 p.m. June 22).
The June 21 Plenary Session from 1-2 p.m. will be structured as a town hall. Titled "BBS at a Crossroads: Understanding the Human Side of Safety Performance Improvement," it will feature Dr. Thomas Krause as moderator and, as panelists, Dr. E. Scott Geller and Dr. Todd Conklin, senior advisor for safety, health, and quality at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The brochure also touts "social learning stations" at the conference that are focused on inspiration, innovation, relaxation, learning from failures, and role playing, believe it or not.
"The Colorado Convention Center is a great venue," said Dan McNeill, director of professional development at ASSE. "We were in Denver in 2012, and this year will be even better. We're on track for a record-breaking expo and we also have a shot at achieving our best attendance ever. In the months leading up to the conference, we've been trending higher than past years.
"Our sessions are more relevant than ever, and we're really focused on what matters to safety professionals, such as the new OSHA walking-working surfaces rule," McNeill added. "Attendees no doubt will have a great experience and learn a lot at this year's event."
Having previously served as ASSE's manager of education for nine years, McNeill is leading the annual conference's planning efforts for the first time in his new role as director of professional development. "We've got a terrific team where everyone does their part in making the event a success," he said. "Stepping in and taking the reins didn't worry me because I already was familiar with the dedication of the staff members behind it."
Expo Hours and Highlights
The exposition hours are:
- Monday, June 19, 3-5:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
The expo will feature flash sessions in various locations; "Super Sessions" during morning expo hours "where some of the most popular sessions," ASSE promises, will be presented in the expo; hands-on demonstrations; and the large ASSE Resource Center placed roughly in the center of the expo.
Out and About
The conference's Networking Night Out is a night game (6:40 p.m. start) at Coors Field to watch the Colorado Rockies take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hosted by the Colorado Chapter of ASSE, this is priced at $50 per person. (The first 10,000 fans entering the park for the game will receive a $1 hot dog coupon, according to the team's online schedule.)
As happens every year, several of Safety 2017's technical tours were sold out months in advance. A June 20 tour of the National Wind Technology Center south of Boulder was sold out early, but June 20 and 21 tours of the construction site in Aurora where the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center is being built—its opening is set for late 2018—were still available in mid-April. Two Denver Zoo safety tours also were sold out by then.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.