Trish Ennis became the 100th president of The American Society of Safety Engineers on July 1 after serving 10 years in various elected leadership roles, including senior vice president and president-elect. Ms. Ennis, the organization's fifth female president to date, is also a senior risk control consultant at Willis North America Inc. With more than 20 years of experience as a safety professional, Ms. Ennis spoke recently with Business Insurance Associate Editor Stephanie Goldberg about safety issues facing ASSE members now and in the future. Edited excerpts follow.
Q: What's the biggest safety concern your members are facing, and what's one issue the American Society of Safety Engineers is working to correct this year?
A: Communicating the value of health and safety and how it feeds into sustainable organization is a big challenge, and that's something we constantly are communicating to our executives and our employers. We're looking overall at supporting our members, developing our members and helping expand our members' voice within their organization. And we're looking at supporting our members on a global basis. We're really looking at ... global competency and risk assessment.
Q: How are you helping members communicate the value of health and safety to their organizations?
A: We do that through our professional development activities, providing members with education and support. We do it through our government affairs activities and our participation on standard-setting endeavors, committees, technical advisory groups.
We provide our members with an opportunity for their voice to be heard on a global basis. A lot of it is through our committees and councils and activities at the state and local level. For example, ASSE has the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability. The CSHS is a collaboration between AIHA, which is the American Industrial Hygiene Association, ASSE and IOSH, which is the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health ... We're providing a voice for leadership in safety and health in shaping sustainability policies. We're trying to get safety metrics into global sustainability reporting metrics. We want to be recognized as a leader for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. So it's lending the safety voice to some of those high-profile activities and reporting frameworks for corporations.
Q: How is ASSE working alongside the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promote workplace safety?
A: (ASSE) is advocating for the safety professional and the profession ... trying to advance the safety profession.
We recognize the value that OSHA brings to protecting workers in America. And we support a lot of the things they do, and we like to have our voice as part of that conversation because ... it's not all about regulation. We don't automatically approve every regulation that comes out. We want to make sure they are ... going to further the conversation of safety.
We have a proactive government affairs committee. We advocate proactively through government affairs at the federal and state level and in member-led relationships with federal and state health agencies. We lend our voice to propose rule-making standards and things like that, but we don't work with OSHA. We do have a strong collaborative relationship with OSHA.
Q: How does your role at ASSE relate to your role at Willis?
A: A lot of my clients are ASSE members, and I work with clients nationwide so I find that I'm doing the same things for my clients that I'm doing for ASSE members, which is giving them opportunities for professional development, assisting them with identifying issues in the workplace and coming up with solutions for those. And my role with ASSE has given me a huge network of people that I can go to that help me further the interest of my clients. I can bring them tools and resources that I wouldn't have if I were not a member of ASSE.