Recently, Examinetics attended two national health and safety conferences --The American Industrial Hygiene conference and exposition and American Society of Safety Professionals' “Safety 2019.”

By the sheer number of attendees, one thing was clear: learning about safety and staying up-to-date with the most recent developments in our field was on everyone’s mind. The conferences brimmed with enthusiastic people eager to share information and absorb new knowledge about safety and health.

If you were not able to attend, we have you covered. While attending these tradeshows, we noticed several trends and key takeaways.

Importance of soft skills

As a safety professional, you are well versed in the “hard” skills of the job – training, knowledge of regulations, hazard identification and communication, interpreting data and a host of other daily tasks. But what about your soft skills? Soft skills are a combination of social and communication skills that allows you to navigate your work environment, work well with others and achieve goals; all while complementing your technical skills for work.

Both tradeshows had no shortage of soft skills sessions to help safety professionals hone their people skills and build better relationships. The sessions included various themes such as the importance of leadership, company culture building and the power of positivity and determination.

For instance, the AIHce featured a presentation called “Win the Day: Using Emotional Intelligence to be Intentional and effective and Succeed in Leadership” which defined the four types of emotional intelligence to build effective relationships, improve communication, the power of self-control and the ability to win others over.

Safety 2019 featured several well-known speakers such as retired Thunderbirds pilot Nicole Malachowski and former figure skater and Olympian Scott Hamilton.

Malachowski spoke on the power of challenging assumptions. To her, the best organizations and leaders create cultures that engage and harness the diverse ideas, talents and abilities of every person; one where challenging assumptions and the status quo drives extraordinary success.

In an inspiring session titled “Unquenchable,” Hamilton shared part of his life story, including winning an Olympic gold medal and his battle against testicular cancer. With a strong passion for life, Hamilton encouraged others to discover a passion in their lives to make a difference in the world around them.

Other sessions at the conference included employee engagement, body language, human behavior, and more focused on excellent communication. Safety 2019 held several events and sessions on understanding and engaging the young professional in the health and safety industry.

Overall, the message was clear. The soft skills—leadership, community building, communication—combined with hard skills will make you the best professional you can be. 

Technology and Data

Technology was a force to reckon with at the recent tradeshows. The types of exhibitors at the ASSP and AIH conferences was proof alone of the increasing nature of technology in the world of occupational health. Included were services such as electronic medical keeping, automation, wearable sensors, paperless documentation and data management systems.

The message across the conferences was the same. Modern technology – a proactive tool for success—is accessible, convenient and more accurate than ever before.

In the internet age, it is no wonder the occupational health and safety sphere is eager to include technology in its practices. With new, cutting-edge technology at their fingertips, safety and health professionals are finding it easier than ever to store data, identify trends and develop reports. Data storing platforms are user-friendly and feature comprehensible graphs, charts and lists of information. Sessions featured topics such as:

·         Sensors for Exposure Monitoring with Data Analytics

·         Wearable technology

·         Internet of Things

·         Effective Use of Big Data

·         Virtual reality

Ultimately, technology allows safety professionals to become more efficient, more accurate and use information to create a plan of action to keep their workforces safe and healthy.

Changing demographics

The demographics of workforces is steadily changing to include more diversity with its employees. No stranger to this growing shift, the AIHce and Safety 2019 actively represented the importance of diversity and the changing demographics of workforces. 

          Women

Women are taking the health and safety industry by storm in high-level roles in management and leadership. The conferences reflected support and encouragement for professional growth of women in the health and safety industry.

For example, the AIHce saw the Women in Industrial Hygiene leadership summit, a six-hour-long event in which women met and promoted technical and management skills, research and raised awareness of health risks and other issues pertaining to women in the workplace.

Likewise, Safety 2019 held several sessions on women in the industry, like the session titled, “You can impact the image of women in construction in the media,” which discussed the frequently inaccurate depiction of women in trade publications and media in the construction industry. Attendees were given strategies to rebrand the depiction of women in construction while collaborating with reporters, videographer, publications, and their own company.

Ethnic Diversity

The workplace is full of diversity, and AIHce and Safety 2019 prioritized racial minorities—such as the Hispanic/Latino community—as pivotal members of the safety and health industry.

For instance, Dr. Kwangseog Ahn from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater conducted a session regarding lessons learned from the NIOSH FACE Reports on the number of fatalities of Hispanic/Latino workers.

Additionally, Safety 2019, featured a session called “Is Safety Training Effective for Hispanic Construction Workers?” This session explored the unique challenge with translating safety training material from English to Spanish and how to improve the process for Spanish-speaking employees. Other sessions, such as “Muy Nice: Training Methods for the Latino Workforce”, also focused on this demographic.

Moreover, the AIHA believes in answering the call for social change by creating a Minority special interest group. The group looks at the issues that affect minorities in the workplace. The group engages in difficult dialogue to develop strategies and execute plans to resolve minority group issues and concerns. 

Older Workers

Over the past decade, the number of workers aged over 50 has exponentially grown. This increase of older workers, also known as the “Silver Tsunami,” will comprise one-third of American workforces by 2023. 

A wellness session at Safety 2019 revealed older workers are in high demand, despite their age. Although older workers are costly, they have the knowledge, professionalism, work ethic, talent, skills and experience that younger workers may lack.

Moreover, older workers retain the strongest work engagement across all generations, making them an invaluable addition to American workforces.

 

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This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.