Racing to zero

In September, I made the 4,000-mile journey from Yorkshire to Indianapolis, home of the famous Indy 500, and this year’s National Safety Council’s Congress and Expo. The National Safety Council is the US equivalent of ROSPA and is dedicated to eliminating preventable deaths at work, in the home and on the roads; hence the theme of this year’s Congress and Expo: ‘Race to Zero’.

This was my third time at Congress. We exhibited at the Expo in Atlanta in 2015, and in 2016 in Los Angeles we delivered a well attended seminar on Leadership of Health and Safety. The session was rated by attendees as one of the top 30 of more than 250.

The Congress features multitude of seminars and conference sessions and in my view, it provides a unique opportunity meet and share ideas with highly-experienced and cutting-edge thinkers. People like: Scott E. Geller, Corrie Pitzer, Richard Hawk, Josh Williams, Shawn Galloway challenge what you think you know about what it is to be a safety professional.

And what do we know from all of this? We know that there are a lot of great people around the world doing fantastic work to keep others safe and healthy. We know that we have achieved great advances over the last 30 years that we should all be proud of. We also know that health and safety is moving on and that the time has come to take things to the next level if we are to avoid stagnation and, perish the thought, retreat. John Green of Laing O’Rourke has recently contended that ‘Safety is Broken’… I wouldn’t go that far, as the assertion does a disservice to the fantastic work of safety professionals, workers and companies around the world. But John Green is clearly trying to provoke a debate and he’s absolutely right to do so.

My belief is that we won’t be thinking the same way about health and safety in ten tears time as we do now, and I don’t mean that in a ‘tinkering around the edges’; we’ll be looking at health and safety in radical, paradigm-breaking ways. The shift that John Green hints at is already beginning to happen, spear-headed by inspirational luminaries like Tim Marsh. It’s exciting because it will lead to a step-change in how workplace safety, occupational health and mental health are approached. It will provide us with the opportunity to create the kind of safety cultures that many have been aspiring to for so many years, but have been just out of reach.

Next year’s NSC Congress and Expo is in Houston, Texas, and we’re hoping to be back exhibiting and delivering a session or two to the fantastic delegates who come from all corners of the world to learn more about how to keep their people safe. ‘Race to Zero’ is a worthy endeavour, but it suggests a downward focus for the industry, but downwards won’t be my focus over the next twelve months; my focus will be on an upward trajectory to take the way we approach health and safety to the next level. It’ll take a little longer than the trip from Yorkshire to Indiana, but I hope to see you on that journey!


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