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‘Safety never takes a holiday,’ former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty tells NSC Congress & Expo attendees


Indianapolis – Kyle Petty held one credo particularly dear during his life in stock car racing, whether working at his legendary family’s North Carolina garage or as a NASCAR driver.

“Safety never takes a holiday,” Petty said.

That theme highlighted Petty’s address Monday during the Opening Session of the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo, as a ballroom filled with attendees attentively listened to stories about early racing innovations and other asides from Petty’s career.

Petty also spoke candidly about the death of his son, Adam, a fourth-generation NASCAR driver who was killed in a crash during practice in May 2000. That event, together with the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. during the 2001 Daytona 500, helped spark a change in the sport’s safety culture.

“We sat down and talked about things. We looked at where we were as a company and what we could do to make our sport better,” said Petty, 57, whose last NASCAR race was in 2008. “NASCAR and the entire industry said we have to be proactive, we have to up our game.”

NASCAR has since introduced numerous safety technologies – including carbon fiber seating, inserts in head and neck support devices, and chassis designed to absorb more energy – for its drivers and cars.

Petty’s speech followed remarks from NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman and newly elected NSC Board of Directors Chairman Mark Vergnano, who is filling the role previously held by John Surma.

Hersman highlighted the importance of protecting workers from fatigue on the job, citing NSC data showing that up to 90 percent of sleep disorders go undiagnosed. Hersman recommends employers examine workers’ schedules, educate them about the importance of sufficient rest and sleep, and implement sleep disorder screenings for employees.

Speaking on a stage adorned with a racecar, Hersman reiterated that the goal of NSC is to eliminate preventable deaths in our lifetime, an ongoing “race to zero.”

“Racing to zero means we can’t just address the obvious hazards in our environment; we have to understand the human being and understand what’s draining our batteries,” Hersman said. “Racing to zero means we have to be ready to take on new challenges. And this week, I want to ask you all, instead of running on empty, make sure you fill up your tanks. With your leadership, learning from each other and a good night’s sleep, I know we can win the race to zero.”

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