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ASSE Mourns Loss of Occupational Safety, Health and Environmental Leader

Posted in on Fri, Jan 12, 2007

Des Plaines, IL (January 12, 2007) — The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) mourns the loss of one of the most prominent leaders and authors in the occupational safety, health and environmental profession, Dan Petersen, Ed.D., P.E. Petersen, 75, passed away in Tempe, AZ, January 10 after complications from a stroke he suffered last June.

Petersen was an active ASSE member and a consultant specializing in safety management and organizational behavior. A renowned presenter, Petersen drew standing-room only crowds for his presentations at ASSE professional development events, such as ASSE’s Human Errors Symposium in Atlanta, GA. At the 2003 symposium, his talk was titled “It’s Safety’s Next Frontier” and he noted, “For the last 90 years, safety has gone through many frontiers, many fads, and occasionally a true paradigm shift. But even in an environment with good management and a good culture, people are still being injured due to human error, their own or someone else’s. We in safety need to be able to explain why human error happens and what it is. That knowledge will open up the next frontier in safety management.”

“This is a major loss for the occupational safety, health and environmental community worldwide,” ASSE President Don S. Jones, Sr., P.E., CSP, said today. “His wealth of knowledge and expertise contributed to the ongoing professional development for thousands of our members. He touched on so many lives. This will leave a major void, but his teachings will continue.”

“Dan was a critical thinker and often was ahead of his time,” ASSE Professional Development Council Vice President Richard A. Pollock, CSP, said. “When he wrote back in the 1970′s that ‘accidents were due primarily to management and management system failures’ many people fell out of their chairs. They didn’t realize what he was saying. But, today this is a common belief and is the basis for global management system regulations and standards.”

Petersen was also a well-known author and frequent contributor to various safety magazines. “His most recent book, Measurement of Safety Performance, is of particular value in that it provides an excellent discussion of the various metrics used in safety and helps the reader define those leading indicators of success for their organization,” Pollock continued. “I reference his books regularly. Dan was a friend and professional colleague. He will be missed by us all.”

ASSE 2004/05 President Gene Barfield, CSP, wrote and alluded to Petersen in a Professional Safety journal President’s Message on employee participation and perception. Barfield wrote that he learned from a seminar titled “Techniques of Safety Management” led by Petersen on how a company can best measure safety performance and assess its safety culture. The seminar on effective measurement methods stressed four key concepts: 1) Don’t use accident-based measurements as a performance indicator; 2) Use audit results only when positive correlation exists between the audit and safety results over time and large numbers; 3) Use a properly constructed perception survey as a primary measure and diagnostic tool; and 4) Use behavior sampling/activity goals as the primary motivational measurement tool. Barfield found Petersen’s seminar to be extremely valuable leading to the use of employee feedback as another tool his workplace now uses to ensure continuous improvement.

A professional member of ASSE, Petersen received ASSE’s highest honor, the Society Fellow in 1998. He is a four-time recipient of ASSE’s national Professional Paper Award for articles he published in Professional Safety journal including one titled “Leadership & Safety Excellence.” His articles on the use of perceptions surveys to assess safety management and organizational culture continue to be among the most requested articles in the journal’s archive.

Petersen’s books published by ASSE include Techniques of Safety Management, Safety Supervision, Safety Management: A Human Approach, Analyzing Safety Performance, Human Error Reduction and Safety Management, Safety Objectives: What gets rewarded, gets done, Managing Employee Stress, Analyzing Safety System Effectiveness, and Authentic Involvement. These include second, third and fourth editions.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Petersen is survived by his wife Nadyne, son Thom Petersen, daughters Pat Bennett and Susan Olson, Ph.D., and five grandchildren.

Founded in 1911, ASSE is the oldest and largest professional safety society and is committed to protecting people, property and the environment. It’s more than 30,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professional members manage, supervise, research and consult on safety, health, transportation and environmental issues in all industries, government, labor and education. For more information please go to

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