By: Thomas Carson

Virtual Conferences Match Up with the Conventional Model

Last week we presented a break-out session and supported as a vendor at Elevate 2020 – the Colorado Safety Association’s first ever virtual safety conference. We were all plowing new ground, but Trish Ennis, the Executive Director of CSA, and her team did a great job of pulling the event together and guiding us all through the world of connecting and communicating with digital imagery.

Not knowing what to expect, I was absolutely delighted with the level of engaged interaction we had with conference participants. We had great conversations in our virtual booth and in the on-line networking room – and not just about safety. We were all behaving like a community of people genuinely interested in each other’s activities and interests. I personally started a dozen new relationships with people I can’t wait to meet in person, even at a 6-foot distance. That is as successful as each of the national NSC and ASSP conferences last year.
At first this surprised me, but thinking about it, nobody signs up for a virtual conference so they can sneak out to virtual Disney World between sessions. The folks I met were uniformly passionate about their work and profession. The same folks are probably at the big national shows as well, but they are harder to find.

Back in April 2018, I had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a Swiss law firm in response to a terrific guide we published on ISO 45001. Well, pleasure may be overstating the case. They actually sent me a “Cease and Desist” order on behalf of their client, the International Organization for Standardization, asserting that I had somehow violated international copyright law by promoting their standard. Jeez – we were just trying to help… Apparently publishing the standard document in full with our helpful interpretation was more help than they felt they needed.

Anyway, one of the most common topics that came up in conference discussions (after we had finished sharing the trials of managing our kids in the age of coronavirus) was growing interest in ISO 45001. I am a huge supporter of the principals behind ISO 45001, because they just make so much sense. In fact, they are so compelling that a large number of companies are already following those principals – even if they don’t realize it. Most of Sospes’ customers are already complying with important parts of ISO 45001 – even if they hadn’t planned that.

If I were to distill down the essence of the standard to very basic requirements, they would be:

1) Hands-on leadership, commitment and participation from ALL levels – management can’t just delegate the entire program to the safety professional.
2) Continual performance evaluation – we are always getting better.
3) Adequate resources to properly support the program and systems.
4) Established processes for identifying hazards and doing something about them.
5) Include ALL workers in the processes.
6) Integrate OH&S processes into business processes.
7) Communicate the program both internally and externally.

I understand that there is work to implementing a comprehensive program that accomplishes all of the requirements to be certified as ISO 45001 compliant, but we can see that following these guidelines can potentially deliver enormous value, certified or not, and many companies are doing that.

My biggest takeaway from the two days was a new appreciation for just how many really committed and interesting people make up the Colorado community of safety professionals. I always get a bit of an enthusiasm bounce from professional events as we are reminded that we are not alone out there, that others share our passion and frustrations. Even in virtual form, this event was no different, so thank you all for sharing with us.

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