It is hard to believe it has been a year since I wrote my first President's Message for PSJ. We all know that so much has happened and changed since then.
In that initial message last July, I outlined three goals that guided me as I shared my thoughts and perspectives with you each month:
1) discuss trends and developments in the safety profession;
2) highlight key Society activities;
3) provide a call to action.
Over the course of this Society year, I have focused on topics like risk and our need to look beyond our own experience to recognize a wider range of potential hazards and exposures. Let me share an anecdote to provide a quick illustration of what I mean.
When we moved to Arizona last May, I was told that rattlesnakes are common in our new state, and our parks feature plenty of signs to caution visitors about this potential danger. Yet, after not seeing a single rattlesnake for 8 months, I started to wonder if the warnings were exaggerated. Then, within a week, a rattlesnake showed up in our front yard, then I saw two more just a few feet off the path where I walk almost every day.
Those close encounters reminded me of conversations with clients about the need for additional hazard controls. Sometimes when I offered these suggestions, my clients would say “that hasn’t happened here” or perhaps argue that “the regulations don’t require it.” In most cases, their perception of risk was limited to their personal experience or what the regulations said. It is easy to overlook potential risks when we limit our perspective. Being open to different points of view is fundamental to being an effective safety professional and a successful, compassionate leader.
Change has been another focal point of my messages this year. As humans, we naturally resist change, yet it is not something we can escape as the COVID-19 pandemic has so powerfully demonstrated. Whether it is our changing world of work, adapting how we learn or constant advances in the technology we use, we must be open to the opportunities these shifts create and willing to look at things from a different point of view.
I have been so impressed with your resilience during these changing times and your ability to remain positive in stressful situations. So many of you have applied your skills and leadership in new ways to help your organizations, clients, and communities protect workers and customers from exposure to COVID-19.
Throughout this crisis, ASSP has been providing resources and information in various formats to help you access the information you need, when you need it. Many members, including Deb Roy, Vic Toy, Adele Abrams, Bruce Lyon, Georgi Popov, Pam Walaski and Julian Mercer, to name only a few, have shared their insights and expertise to help us respond effectively to the extraordinary challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am thankful to have worked with an amazing Board of Directors and staff as we have made unprecedented decisions for our Society in the past year. We used risk assessment and risk management principles to guide our process, and we applied a business planning method to ensure that we consider the advantages, disadvantages and risks associated with all of our major decisions.
Clearly, our biggest decision by far was our shift to Safety 2020 Virtual. While this will be a different conference experience for many of us, it creates some exciting new opportunities. For example, it overcomes company travel restrictions. Extended 60-day access to educational sessions means you have longer to learn and the potential to earn significantly more CEUs. You can connect directly with others via in-session chats, which can be a more purposeful way to network than seeing someone in the hall and promising to catch up "soon."
Many members have long viewed the events, ceremonies and celebrations at our annual conference as "the" destination for each ASSP president. Sure, I will always be able to say my version of that destination was the first of its kind. But the important story for me is the amazing journey that brought me here. Thank you for coming with me!