Notes from the National Safety Congress

By Sandy Smith

The Houston Astros may have missed out on the World Series, but the city is bustling with activity at the start of the National Safety Congress.

Streets were shut down around the National Safety Congress (NSC) at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston in preparation of a campaign visit from President Donald Trump. But that didn’t stop as many as 14,000 attendees from making their way to the Congress & Expo. (No word yet on whether the president plans to join us to learn more about occupational safety and health!)

Seeing Hazards Clearly

In her opening remarks at the NSC, Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, talked about learning to see hazards clearly. “Safety professionals aren’t born, they are trained. And it takes training to see hazards clearly,” said Hersman. “Before I got my glasses, my definition of normal consisted of blurry road signs at night and fuzzy patches of green where individual leaves might be. But the small act of putting on my glasses for the first time helped me see things as I should have seen them before.”

The same goes for safety, she added. “If we continue to do things the wrong or unsafe way without consequence, we stop seeing the hazards.”

Hersman noted that preventable injuries now are the third-leading cause of death. “We are becoming blind to everyday hazards. We are becoming complacent. We are rolling back protections for workers, increasing speed limits and turning a blind eye to common risks like falls.

Distinguished Service to Safety Award

The NSC honored six individuals with the Distinguished Service to Safety Award, the highest award given to safety professionals by the council.

“Our DSSA winners bring several lifetimes of dedication and commitment to safety,” said Hersman. “Honoring their achievements, we can set the bar for what’s possible, and inspire others to pursue our shared goal of eliminating preventable deaths.”

Honorees are nominated by their colleagues and reviewed by NSC Division Committees. The following individuals were selected:

  • Mack Cowan, scientific director, Texas Breath Alcohol Testing Program for the Texas Department of Safety
  • Brian L. Fielkow, CEO, Jetco Delivery
  • Glenn A. Murray, senior fellow, Campbell Institute
  • Tim Page-Bottorff, CSP, CET, senior consultant, SafeStart
  • SMSgt B. Leubinka Romero, Superintendent 55th Wing Safety Directorate, Offutt AFB, Nebraska
  • Dave Trumble, vice president, Grey Bruce Labour Council, Ontario, Canada

More about the NSC awards programs can be found at

Prescribed to Death

The National Safety Council made Houston the sixth stop on a nationwide tour of its exhibit, Prescribed to Death: A Memorial to the Victims of the Opioid Crisis, by unveiling the display inside the convention center.

The opioid crisis continues to take lives, in the home and in the workplace. NSC analysis indicates 1,375 Texans fatally overdosed on opioids in 2016, and an NSC survey of employers nationwide shows seven in 10 have been directly impacted by employee prescription drug misuse.

“The most fatally abused drug today may be sitting in medicine cabinets across Texas,” said Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Education plays a critical role in eliminating these preventable deaths.”

The Prescribed to Death exhibit includes a memorial wall made of thousands of small white pills – each carved with a human face to represent those lost to prescription opioid overdose in 2015. Individuals who have lost loved ones to opioid overdose will have the opportunity to honor them by adding their loved one’s name to a digital memorial provided by the National Safety Council, or by sharing photos, flowers or personal effects on site. Visit for more information.


This entry was posted in EHSQ, Health & Safety Management by Sandy Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the Global EHSQ Content Lead for Intelex Technologies. Formerly the Content Director for EHS Today, she has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. Her work as a journalist and editor has been recognized with national and international awards. She has been interviewed about occupational safety and health for national business publications, documentaries and television programs; has served as a panelist on roundtables; and has provided the keynote address for occupational safety and health conferences.

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