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Since its beginnings nearly 25 years ago, the Construction Section of the ASSE's San Francisco Chapter has flourished in scope and membership. It continues to hold monthly meetings to discuss the latest safety topics, and members and non-members alike are encouraged to participate in the section's many activities, including seminars, presentations, joint meetings and field trips. In this interview, William Van Cleve, current Chairman of Special Projects for the Construction Section, reflects on the section's history, accomplishments and plans for the future as it approaches its 25 th anniversary at the end of this year.

The Construction Section of the ASSE's San Francisco Chapter will celebrate its 25th anniversary on December 20, 2005. What special events does the section have planned in honor of this occasion?

We will have a Gala Celebration on Tuesday, December 20, 2005 at our regular luncheon meeting place, Francesco's Restaurant on in Oakland, California.

The Construction Section began as the Construction Committee of the ASSE's Greater San Jose Chapter, and you were the founder of the original committee. What do you believe are the section's most significant accomplishments of the last 25 years?

I believe our most significant accomplishments are:

1. Meeting regularly for 300 consecutive months (25 years!) to discuss “hot” safety topics.

2. Inviting anyone interested in promoting safety in the construction industry to our meetings, no matter if they are ASSE members or not.

3. Cooperating with the California-Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) in occasional seminars and presentations of regulatory issues.

4. Organizing and presenting seminars, field trips and joint meetings with other safety-oriented groups.

In 2004, the Construction Section was chartered, and this marked the first time that a section—not a geographical area—was recognized in this way. How did the Construction Section qualify for this recognition?

Our initial “birth” as the Construction Committee of the Greater San Jose Chapter in December 1980 and the good relationship with that chapter had weakened over the past ten years, and we were concerned that we were not benefiting from the ASSE culture to the degree that we thought appropriate. Also, while we knew that we were “doing good work,” we realized that the greater organization was not really benefiting from our efforts. We contacted the National Office for guidance, and one thing led to another—it just made sense to affiliate with the San Francisco Chapter in a formal way. The idea of forming a “section” along “specialty” lines, rather than according to the longstanding geographical format, made perfectly good sense, and it seemed like a natural progression! We hope we are the first of many specialty sections to become a part of the ASSE.

How does the Construction Section recruit and maintain members? What kinds of benefits or services does it offer?

We recruit members mostly by word of mouth and through professional relationships. We make sure to encourage safety professionals to join the ASSE and the Construction Practice Specialty. People new to the safety culture tell us they had not been able to exchange ideas and to strengthen their knowledge of safety issues before “finding” us. We hope that our affiliation with the San Francisco Chapter will enable us to attract more new members. We do not intend to abandon our practice of inviting all people to our meetings. We consider this practice to be a basic public service to the community.

What issues within the construction industry are currently of greatest importance to Construction Section members? How are members working with the construction industry to address these issues?

Our members are most interested in:

1. Compliance with recent Cal-OSHA requirements (as of June 1, 2005) for mobile and tower crane operators to be certified. This is a difficult and complex requirement that has been a major issue in California.

2. Professional development, training and mentorship for those interested in a safety career.

3. Promoting reasonable regulatory issues that recognize the ultimate costs of industrial accidents and injuries. We support the efforts of organizations like the Associated General Contractors to promote safety while recognizing that self-regulation by industry is the only realistic way to achieve a lasting degree of success in minimizing losses. No governmental agency has or ever will be able to do this.

The Construction Section holds monthly meetings. What construction topics, specifically those that involve the West Coast, do these meetings typically cover?

At our meetings, we usually discuss:

•  Crane operator certification and crane safety in general

•  Safety issues in emergency response to disasters of all kinds

•  Cal-OSHA issues

•  The control of industrial illnesses associated with the construction industry

•  Training issues, from entry-level to the highly qualified and certified safety professional

How has the section's affiliation with the ASSE San Francisco Chapter helped it to succeed?

It is more of a question of “how will this new affiliation help us to succeed” because fruition has been slow in coming. But we are excited about the possibilities, and we look forward to the future.

How can members make the most of their participation in the Construction Section?

We hope that they will share in our excitement and come forward with new ideas and a willingness to assume positions of leadership.

What are the Construction Section's plans for 2006?

We plan to participate in a local Professional Development Conference, and we will continue to present good, high-interest topics at our monthly meetings. We also would like to see more support and recognition from the Construction Practice Specialty.

I do not like to blow our horn too much, but I think we have done a pretty good job out here for the last 25 years!

You work part-time as a consultant. How has your involvement in the Construction Section and in the ASSE in general helped you in your professional career?

I have worked in safety for more than 52 years, and I have been an ASSE member for more than 35 years. I still enjoy working with a few great clients who appreciate my efforts to minimize losses and prevent injuries. My association with the Society, and especially with the Construction Practice Specialty, has been a primary element in any success I have had in this regard. The Professional Development Conferences in general and the individual professional relationships I have with other members have been a constant resource for information and mutual support in times of need. I have very fond memories of my tenure as Administrator of the old Construction Division during the mid 1980s, and I intend to continue to contribute to the general cause of construction safety as long as I can put one foot in front of the other!


William Van Cleve is a Private Consulting Engineer who provides industrial safety and loss control services to contractors in the San Francisco Bay Area. Van Cleve previously worked as a Manager for the California-Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) Loss Control Certification Unit in San Francisco and as a Senior Safety Engineer, Regional Safety Manager and Division Director of Safety and Loss Control for Wausau Insurance Companies also in San Francisco. Prior to these positions, Van Cleve served as the Director of Safety for Erickson Wood Products Company in Marysville, California.

Van Cleve is currently the Chairman of Special Projects for the Construction Section of the ASSE's San Francisco Chapter, which will celebrate its 25 th anniversary on December 20, 2005.