September 2014

As chief elected officer of the Society, ASSE's president promotes the advancement of the Society and the safety profession, and represents ASSE before members, other relevant professional societies and various governmental agencies. Professional Safety shares his latest thoughts on the Society, the profession and its practice.

Read past messages in the President's Message Archive.

President's Message - October 2006

Like the education we pursue to advance our professional knowledge, we must keep abreast of the latest developments and how they apply to what we do.

2006-2007 ASSE President Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP

Technology and the SH&E Professional

Maybe the pairing in this column's title doesn't have quite the same ring as classic pairings like peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon, or Abbott and Costello. Still, it's an idea that SH&E professionals should be focused on and one we should each work to improve.

Throughout history, advances in technology have changed how we live. The printing press made it easier to share ideas and opinions with many people. Trains, cars and later airplanes allowed us to reach far-away destinations in relatively little time. Computers allowed us to automate tasks and perform complex scientific calculations more quickly than ever imagined. Looking just at safety, consider the impact of PPE, machine safeguarding, ergonomic equipment and intelligent vehicle systems.

Today, it's rare to find someone who doesn't have a cell phone, not to mention at least one other gadget among the many electronic devices available to keep us almost virtually connected to work, the world and one another at all times. The question facing SH&E professionals now is: How do we use technology to improve what we do?

Computers and their many applications can certainly help us be more efficient and proficient in areas such as compliance, training and recordkeeping. Electronic communication and the Internet can also make it easy to stay current with the latest regulations, codes and standards. Software can help us capture data on many performance indicators, then share it rapidly across our organizations. Using technology, we can also more readily present our results in terms that our corporate executives understand. Robotics continue to help us find new ways to automate manufacturing tasks and processes. And that just barely scratches the surface of the many improvement opportunities available.

Since technology has such a large place in safety, each of us must find ways to keep up with the latest advancements. Like the education we pursue to advance our professional knowledge, we must keep abreast of the latest developments and how they apply to what we do. Otherwise, we risk being passed by-both in our companies and in our profession.

So how can you keep up with safety-related technology? You could start by asking some colleagues what technologies they use to help manage and improve their safety efforts. You could contact the leaders of ASSE's Council on Practices & Standards (CoPS) and its practice specialties to learn about the latest technology-based developments in the various specialty areas. You might also connect with the Business of Safety, Body of Knowledge and Standards Development committees within CoPS.

On the research and development side, NIOSH's Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART) and National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory (NPPTL) are great resources. DART's research focuses on injury and illness prevention, and intervention effectiveness, while NPPTL works to advance research on respirators and other personal protective technologies. You should also monitor the activies of international standards groups such as ANSI, the International Organization for Standardization and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers since their guidelines often govern the new technologies that emerge.

Reading is another way to stay current. In addition to the information from technology providers, check out the technology sections of newspapers, weekly magazines and similar publications, as they often highlight the latest trends and innovations. There are also an abundance of newsgroups, blogs, bulletin boards and similar resources focused on various types of technology and their applications. Attending a conference or seminar is another effective way to learn about new trends. A great place to start in that regard is ASSE's upcoming "Solutions in Safety Through Technology" symposium, slated to run Nov. 16-17 in Scottsdale, AZ.

It's a digital world in an information age. Take the time now to get up to speed and find new ways to meet the challenges you face each day.

Donald S. Jones, Sr., MBA, PE, CSP