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CSSE conference opens with call for 'transformational' leadership

By Mari-Len De Guzman
Ian Percy

Attendees to this year's CSSE Professional Development Conference got a dose of the new reality at the opening session, with renowned leadership coach Ian Percy calling for a new way of collaborating for safety and achieving greater success for organizations.

WHISTLER, B.C. — The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) kicked off its annual Professional Development Conference with a strong message of greater collaboration and a little bit of “thinking without the box.”

At the opening ceremony, keynote presenter Ian Percy challenged over 750 safety professionals attending this year’s conference to not just be stewards of change but go beyond that and effect a transformation in their organization.

“If you’re not a transformational leader, you’re not a leader at all,” said Percy, a motivational speaker and author of numerous books on leadership.

Percy’s keynote presentation provided a different perspective of leadership. He said the way organizations have traditionally viewed corporate structures is becoming irrelevant in this day and age.

He said the world has moved past the “information age”, and that knowledge and wisdom should be what leaders and organizations are striving for.

Percy pointed out that the common phrase, “thinking outside the box” — which indicates going outside of your usual practices to come up with great ideas — doesn’t really represent what today’s leaders should be doing to effect a transformation. “Because what happens after you’re done thinking outside the box? You go back in the box?” he joked.

He also urged safety professionals to go outside of their own community or comfort zone to see the world in a whole different light, to see possibilities outside of their own sector, and be able to lead a diverse team.

“If all you do is hang out with other safety people, you’re missing the boat,” said Percy. “People get nervous when they get out of their own territory, but that’s the challenge.”

More than 750 safety professionals are attending this year’s CSSE conference, and more than 60 companies are exhibiting at the tradeshow, according to Peter Sturm, CSSE president, during the opening ceremony.

Sturm urged the delegates to use the conference as a way to further their professional development as safety practitioners.

“My hope for you is that when you go home, you take at least one — and hopefully many — new ideas that you could use at your company in creating safer workplaces for workers,” Sturm said.

The opening session also included a presentation by David Anderson, president and CEO of WorkSafeBC. Anderson’s presentation focused on the “business of workers’ compensation,” providing statistics on the financial benefits of injury prevention.

Anderson reported that injury rates among workers in British Columbia has declined over the last 20 years, from a 6.5 per cent chance of getting injured 20 years ago, down to 2.7 per cent.

Overall fatality rates also went down 41 per cent over the last 20 years, he added. There is however, one aspect of workplace-related fatality that has not shown any positive development — occupational diseases.

“The reality is that the single largest cause of fatality is occupational diseases,” Anderson said, and almost always exposure to asbestos is the culprit.

Despite this, however, the overall improvement in workplace injury and fatality statistics should be recognized, he said.

“Safety professionals have collectively achieved incredible results over the last 20 years,” Anderson pointed out.

The CSSE Professional Development Conference is being held at the Whistler Conference Centre, September 18 to 21, 2011.

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