Beyond Safety – Conference Discusses Workplace Safety

The Northwest Indiana Business Roundtable (NWIBRT) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) convened their third annual Beyond Safety Conference and Expo in Merrillville, Indiana February 19 -20, 2013. Though attended primarily by safety professionals in the Midwest, the conference presented information valuable to all concerned with workplace safety.

The conference offered 25 educational sessions, in depth panel discussions, keynote speakers, and more than fifty exhibitors. Attendees learned about the latest developments in safety techniques and technologies. Speakers included OSHA Deputy Commissioner Timothy E. Maley and fighter pilot and motivational speaker Jeff “Odie” Espenship.

Keynote speakers were Rick Gerlach, senior director of safety and health, and David O’Boyle, senior regional safety coordinator, for Cintas Corp. Cintas provides uniforms and apparel, restroom supplies, and safety mat service, as well as first aid, document management, and fire protection services to companies worldwide.

The keynote address detailed Cintas’ “transformational safety journey” from 2003 to the present. Gerlach explained that when he came to work at the company as a safety expert in 2003, Cintas was experiencing a rise in the number of workman compensation claims. The company was subject to frequent inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and was receiving an average of 8 citations from OSHA per week.

CEO Scott Farmer and other Cintas executives took the lead in making safety a top business priority for the company. They realized that they lacked a comprehensive safety plan for their 420 international locations. After instituting safety programs for the corporation, they saw a drop in OSHA citations received from 8 to less than one on average per inspection.

However, when a worker was killed on the job at the company’s Tulsa, Oklahoma facility in 2007, the CEO knew more measures were necessary to prevent anymore workplace fatalities or serious injuries. CEO Scott Farmer created an executive safety council which he chaired and which included 20 operations and staff officers. The safety council meets quarterly to address safety concerns and strategies. The company also hired three independent advisors on safety and sought input from employees on how to improve their operations to increase safety in the workplace.

Conference attendees came away with an increased awareness of the importance of safety in the workplace and ideas on how to improve safety. Gerald Hancock of Walsh & Kelly, Inc. said, “Safety is a continuously changing process. The presentations make you more aware of your responsibility.” The conference was attended by more than 550 professionals. The 2014 Beyond Safety Conference and Expo is already in the planning stages.