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February 11, 2014
Social media for safety professionals: BLR Safety Summit 2014 preview

Safety professionals need to stay current in multiple fields of knowledge—from chemical hazards to ergonomics, machine safety, metrics, and more. BLR® has a solution for time-strapped EHS pros who can’t afford to operate with outdated information. It’s the BLR Safety Summit 2014: Best Practices & OSHA Compliance for 2014, scheduled April 9 to 11 at The Westin Buckhead in Atlanta.

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The content-packed event will feature an all-star lineup of thought leaders in the industry, including American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President Kathy Seabrook and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Director Dr. John Howard. They will be joined by other experts who will share practical applications and address emerging issues.

Pam Walaski

For a hint of what you can expect at the Summit, we’ll talk today with one of our presenters. Pam Walaski is regional manager for EHS services at Compliance Management International, a full-service safety consulting business. She’ll give us a preview of her presentation, Safety Professionals in the Digital Age.

Today, she’ll talk about the benefits and challenges of social media—and stay tuned for an upcoming article where Walaski will discuss how safety professionals can take advantage of the many smartphone apps available to make their jobs easier.

Social media benefits

In her presentation at the BLR Safety Summit, Walaski will discuss the ways social media (she refers to it as an “invasion”) has affected the safety profession. She sees two primary applications. The first is for professional development through sites like Twitter (https://twitter.com) and LinkedIn® (http://www.LinkedIn.com).

LinkedIn is a professional network created in 2003 to link people, jobs, news, updates, and insights. According to its website, LinkedIn has 250 million members in 200 countries.

Walaski explains, “LinkedIn is about engaging and connecting with people you may never meet face-to-face, but can share and ask questions of. Then, down the road, if you’re job hunting, you’ve got all those connections.” The site is especially valuable for safety professionals who work alone, and for those who have limited funding for conferences and professional development.

A second vital role of social media is to help safety pros conduct risk and crisis communications with stakeholders. A related example is a Facebook page that popped up as the recent winter storm bore down on unprepared Atlanta in late January. The page attracted 46,000 users in 1 day, connecting those in need of help with people willing to assist.

Walaski says social media also offers a way to get and share relevant information about safety and health on a daily basis. While print publications remain essential, the immediacy of social media is a big part of its appeal. When social media is used as it is intended—as a two-way source of communication—“it can make us all better at what we do,” Walaski adds.

Digital challenges

Opening a Twitter account or becoming active on other social media platforms may seem daunting, but Walaski says it’s quite simple once you understand the basics. During her BLR Safety Summit presentation, Walaski will conduct a “Twitter 101” tutorial to make the point. She encourages those who want to get involved with digital tools not to hide behind inexperience. Look for a knowledgeable (probably younger) colleague who can help you get started.

Another challenge for safety pros who want to do more with digital technology is what Walaski calls “overly restrictive” corporate policies governing social media and account passwords.

Walaski says many states now prohibit companies from requiring employees to provide their passwords to management. She says some people may choose not to enter the social media scene for fear of running afoul of management policies.

And finally, while some employees fear being considered backward or tech-phobic, Walaski says, “There’s also a concern about appearing to be one of those people who’s always got a phone in their face.” Not surprisingly, her advice is to strike a balance—use technology to your advantage without letting it overtake your job or your life.

To learn more about what you can expect at the BLR Safety Summit, check out the full conference agenda.

Need more reasons to attend?
Check out this BLR infographic for 10 of them:

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