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Green Cross for Safety Awards Keynote, Chicago

May 16, 2019 | Chicago, IL

Nick Smith

Nick Smith is chief operating officer and chief strategy officer at the National Safety Council.

Thank you Mark and the Board for your leadership and support.

For me personally, it’s been a great honor to lead this organization over the last five months, and we’re very excited to welcome our new President and CEO.

On behalf of the entire staff, Lorraine, we are eager for you to come on board and help drive our mission forward.

I would like to thank everyone here tonight for joining us as we kick off the 20th anniversary of the Green Cross for Safety Awards Celebration.

Some of you in the room may be familiar with our history, and some may not be, so let’s take a look back to where it all began.

The foundation of the National Safety Council started with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City at the turn of the century.

After the loss of 146 mostly female garment workers, employers realized that tragedy cannot be the cost of doing business.

A commission of civic leaders resolved to put an end to preventable deaths and the Safety Movement was born.

In 1913 the National Safety Council was created with the vision of preserving human life.

Our mission for more than 100 years has been to eliminate preventable deaths.

For the last century, millions of people have been driven by that passion.

As we work to fulfill our mission, the story of the shirtwaist factory fire reminds us of our grounding.

The data tells us where we need to go, on or off the job, wherever we are – to tackle the leading causes of death.

We look for the biggest impact we can make, alongside partners with the broadest influence.

This is how we cultivate a culture of PREVENTION. Let me share with you what prevention means to us.

Our job is to secure the future of prevention. And your support tonight makes this possible.

It allows us to tackle critical issues.

It allows us to expand effective programs. And most importantly, charitable contributions allow us to stay one step ahead to address emerging trends in safety.

The key to prevention takes all of us.

I’d like to share with you a preview of where we are leading in prevention efforts. And how we are bringing others along on this journey to create safe systems for road safety, address workplace impairment, and leverage promising technology.

First – preventing roadway fatalities.

You will hear a special story of child passenger safety and prevention later this evening, but I would first like to share an exciting new initiative.

Our child passenger safety program is developing a new tool in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Tennessee Tech.

For the first time ever, this tool will capture digital data from car seat inspections.

It will help manufacturers engineer better and safer car seats, preventing fatalities through data.

Road safety continues to be a focus for us, because crashes continue to be the leading cause of workplace fatalities, as well as the 2nd leading cause of preventable death for the public.

We are proud to chair the Road to Zero Coalition, with over 900 organizations that have stepped up to eliminate roadway deaths. Together, we developed a roadmap to end fatalities by 2050.

With Congress re-authorizing the 5-year transportation bill, we can leverage this expertise as a leading voice in setting safety priorities.

To do this right we need the right regulations, enforcement and education.

Through our leadership of the Road to Zero Coalition, we can impact how roadways are designed.

We can implement protections for all roadway users, encourage automation, new safety technologies, and so much more.

And here’s what you can do to help:

Take a driver safety course, on us. On your table, you’ll find this card.

We train nearly 1 million drivers every year. In appreciation of your support, the National Safety Council and our partner at SafetyServe.com, are providing everyone here this evening a free online course. The sign up information is on this card.

As we continue to lead in workplace safety, we believe that emerging technology has the power to shift safety in the workplace.

A generous gift from the McElhattan Foundation is helping us identify and leverage technology in order to eliminate workplace deaths, with what we’re calling Work to Zero.

Ever focused on our core mission of keeping people safe at work, we are working with world-class environmental health & safety leaders at our Campbell Institute and other prominent experts to steer research and build partnerships on next-level safety innovations.

From fall protection systems to virtual reality training and other safety applications, technology has come a long way. And the best technology can be a transformative disruptor.

Finally, we’re leveraging research, education and advocacy partnerships to address the emerging threat of workplace impairment.

Ninety percent of workplaces are impacted by fatigue – caused by long hours, prolonged sleep loss, or shifting schedules.

We developed a calculator to identify the real costs of fatigue in the workplace, that has been recognized by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We’re piloting a fatigue toolkit to help employers address this issue head on.

And we’re building partnerships with state of the art research institutions and companies to develop a fatigue risk management system.

These efforts will go a long way toward keeping employees safe on the job and on the road.

As opioids have become a national epidemic, 75% of employers have been impacted, and nearly 50% have experienced serious negative business impact.

If your company is struggling to address this issue, you are not alone. HR and safety professionals - those on the front line - play a key role here.

We know the longer people in treatment can stay on the job, the better the outcomes for the individual, the employer, and the community at large.

And if you live in one of 32 states that have legalized some form of marijuana, as many businesses are finding out, it’s a balancing act between state and federal mandates.

There’s currently a gap when it comes to addressing cannabis in the workplace. We can bring our strength as a convener to identify these gaps for the business community and the public.

Impairment will be a key focus this June during National Safety Month, and we are hosting an employer focused workshop on cannabis next month at NSC.

When it comes to workplace impairment, transportation safety or promising technology, we are well positioned to help employers play a strong and proactive role in preventing future injuries and fatalities.

Ultimately, we’re able to do all of this because we have great partners to help us leverage and improve safety.

Tonight we honor and celebrate our Green Cross for Safety Award finalists who really do this well.

Preventable deaths and injuries continue to be a leading cause of death. This means that prevention continues to be of paramount importance.

For those of us in this room, no victory is won until we get to zero.

And the only way we’ll get there, is by building a culture of safety and prevention together.

Our founding reminds us how critically important it is to preserve human life.

Because we all own safety.

And for us, prevention means we can keep each other safe if we do it together.

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