Three Questions: ASSE’s Safety Innovation Award

InnovateKeeping workers safe requires a dynamic mix of sound science, proven engineering principles and people skills. OSH professionals are constantly developing new ideas to address emerging hazards and combat legacy hazards, whether it’s launching a pilot training program that incorporates experiential learning, helping to develop a new mobile app or similar innovations. Recognizing that these creative solutions are essential to improving worker safety and influencing organizational performance, ASSE and Cintas are again partnering to present the ASSE Award for Innovation in Occupational Safety Management. With applications due April 8, Society Update recently spoke with James H. (Jim) Morris III, chair of the 5-member judging panel, about the award.

SU: How do you and the committee define innovation?
Jim: I’d say that if you look at the successful applications over the last 2 years, our take on innovation is something that is a fresh idea, program or even equipment that protects people, property and the environment. This doesn’t necessarily have to be the proverbial reinvention of the wheel: sometimes it’s a matter of applying new ideas from another field and trying them in a different way.

SU: What does the group look for in judging the nominations? In other words, what will distinguish the selected winner?
Jim: We look at a number of different criteria, but to us, probably one of the most important is the breadth and scope of who this affects. One big question we ask is: Is this something that has or can have a positive impact on a lot of people? Additionally, how that idea connects, and how it’s been used effectively, needs to shine through in the application.

SU: Why is innovation so important to safety?
Jim: In a precise and technically oriented field such as safety, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of doing things because it’s always been done that way. Sometimes there is a reason we do things the way we do. However, as the workplace evolves, and the generations entering the workplace evolve, as professionals, we need to find more ways to connect with the people we serve and make sure that we understand the things that are changing in our own work environments. Sometimes this involves looking at things from a different perspective. This also may involve seeing how the folks entering the workforce think and communicate, and adjust our ways to meet their ways. The ideas they bring to the table may help us improve and also may bring them into the OSH field.

To learn more about submission criteria, visit the Innovation Award website or view the online submission form.