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Our Favorite Moments from the 2019 NSC Congress & Expo

Toby Graham /

Another year, another National Safety Council Congress & Expo come and gone too soon. The NSC’s annual workplace safety convention, held this year in San Diego, drew thousands of EHS professionals together for lively conversations, presentations, and product showcases.

Headshot of a man in a blazer
Chris Fanning CEO, President
Abe Cohen
Abe Cohen, VP Marketing

According to KPA CEO Chris Fanning and VP of Marketing Abe Cohen, the 2019 NSC Congress & Expo seemed even bigger and busier than usual. Fresh from the event, Chris and Abe recently sat down to follow up on their NSC predictions and discuss their experiences and takeaways.

Take it away, Chris and Abe!

CHRIS FANNING: Hey Abe.

ABE COHEN: Hi Chris. Wow, that was quite an NSC Congress & Expo this year!

CHRIS FANNING: Oh yeah. I don’t know about you, but I’m already missing San Diego. And not only because of those fish tacos.

ABE COHEN: I’m with you there. So, NSC: I have some thoughts, but I’d love to hear from you first. What was your experience like?

CHRIS FANNING: My first impression was just how crowded the convention hall was. It was amazing that an expo floor of that size was so busy for much of the entire show.

ABE COHEN: Yes, absolutely. And a lot of them were newcomers.

CHRIS FANNING: That’s right. So many software startups and early-stage companies. It’s exciting and energizing to see people launching new services and trying out new ideas in the marketplace. It indicates that employers are taking employee health and safety seriously, and that there’s a large appetite for solutions that promise to make compliance easier.

ABE COHEN: I hear a “but” coming.

CHRIS FANNING: But… untested solutions bring a great deal of risk. EHS is complex. Providers need proven experience in both safety management and technology—you can’t have one without the other.

Buyers really need to determine whether a given solution is robust enough to meet their EHS needs—what kind of features it has, what level of support is behind it, whether it’s built for the future. Because, as you and I and our clients know, regulations and best practices are changing on a near-constant basis. It’s important to consider where a provider’s background is, if the solution is designed specifically for your industry and whether other folks in the industry are using it.

ABE COHEN: It sounds like you’re saying shiny software features aren’t enough.

CHRIS FANNING: Yes, exactly. It’s almost 2020. By now, safety professionals moving to SaaS solutions is a fait accompli. Everyone knows software is how you manage your workforce, training, reporting, et cetera. The question is how to make a decision—how to choose the platforms and tools that will truly protect your workers and your bottom line without creating additional risks.

ABE COHEN: What kinds of risks occur when companies choose the wrong solutions?

CHRIS FANNING: Imagine making a significant investment of time and capital into a brand-new company, only for that company to drop the product or go under a year later. That happens a lot of the time for tech startups. Some of the new entrants in our industry are coming from that world without doing their homework.

The “fail fast, fail often” mindset doesn’t apply here. It’s antithetical to what EHS is supposed to be. Beware betting your business on a solution that may not be around for the long run.

ABE COHEN: So what advice would you have for people looking for an effective, future-proof safety platform?

CHRIS FANNING: As I said, you need both safety management expertise and the technology tools to implement an effective program. Many companies today are run by long-time safety professionals trying hard to become software companies. That’s not necessarily better than the SaaS firms pivoting to EHS. Both competencies are equally important. The infusion of software management will be necessary for meeting customers’ requirements and will mark an industry inflection point in the future. I believe KPA is already ahead of the curve.

ABE COHEN: Because we’ve been combining software and safety expertise from the beginning?

CHRIS FANNING: Yes. KPA has been doing this for more than 30 years, helping thousands of organizations and facilities improve workforce safety and compliance outcomes. We have the technology, training, and real-world experience most other providers are only starting to develop.

ABE COHEN: I couldn’t have said it better. Glad we can work some self-promotion in here. [laughter]

CHRIS FANNING: Yes, of course we’re biased, but this is ultimately about helping organizational leaders make the right decisions for their people. Our solution just happens to be the right choice for most mid-size companies.

ABE COHEN: So, what else stood out to you?

CHRIS FANNING: I personally found Mick Ebeling’s keynote inspiring. He’s a philanthropist and the CEO of Not Impossible Labs, which takes a hands-on approach to the world’s biggest problems. He spoke about the daily “absurdities” people face—things safety practitioners are all too familiar with, like employees getting four hours of sleep, easily preventable slips and falls, and so on.

We talk a great deal about innovation in this industry. The most innovative solutions are the ones that address everyday issues—issues so routine and pervasive we stop seeing them for what they are. There’s no reason getting more sleep, for instance, should be considered impossible.

ABE COHEN: That’s a great summary, Chris. And I should mention to the people who will be reading our conversation that some of the highlights from Mick’s presentation and other NSC moments are available to watch on YouTube.

CHRIS FANNING: What about you, Abe? What did you walk away with from NSC this year?

ABE COHEN: You picked up on quite a few things that struck me as well. I’ll add just a couple more. First is the theme of inspections. Many, many presentations this year centered on the importance of auditing your facilities before regulators do it for you. Avoiding injuries, fines, and lawsuits all starts with the ability to do self-inspections and mitigate issues proactively. That’s another strong point for KPA—our more than 125 Risk Management Consultants have helped countless organizations dodge financial and legal liabilities by performing audits and inspections and we also have software that helps organizations conduct self-inspections in an efficient manner.

CHRIS FANNING: See? Self-promotion comes naturally. [laughter]

ABE COHEN: Second thing on my list—I’ll also mention the NSC preview of the OSHA Top 10 Violations for 2019. Just like last year, it was packed. I believe there were over 300 attendees—it was standing room only.

CHRIS FANNING: I imagine that will show up on our blog soon.

ABE COHEN: Yes, indeed. For anyone reading this: stay tuned. We’ll be writing plenty more about the 2019 OSHA violations list in the next couple of weeks.

And I think that’s a great teaser to leave our audience with. Thank you for your time, Chris.

CHRIS FANNING: Thanks, Abe. Pleasure going to NSC and having this conversation with you. It was a great event and I’m already looking forward to next year!

If you attended NSC this year (or if you couldn’t, but care about advances in workplace safety all the same), we’d love to hear from you. To chat directly with Chris or Abe, contact them at cfanning@kpaonline.com or acohen@kpaonline.com.

For a personalized demo of our EHS software platform, click here.

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