A look back at the 2018 NSC Congress & Expo

2018 NSC Congress & Expo, McRaven keynote
Photo: International Center for the Documentary Arts

‘Don’t quit,’ former Navy SEAL commander urges; NSC’s Hersman asks, ‘What do you see?’

If they want to quit, the only thing Navy SEAL trainees have to do is ring a bell. That simple act ends the 5 a.m. wake-up calls, the pain and the mental rigors.

Speaking before a capacity crowd on Oct. 22 during the Opening Session of the 2018 National Safety Council Congress & Expo in Houston, retired Adm. William H. McRaven implored safety professionals to avoid that temptation.

“If you want to be successful in life, never, ever ring the bell,” said McRaven, a former Navy SEAL and commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. “Follow your dreams. Give it everything you got. Just don’t quit.”

McRaven, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command in 2011 who helped organize the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, explained how managing risk was involved in the mission. He told the helicopter pilots transporting the SEALs that they were going to get their men to the target safely.

“‘At the end of the day, safety is paramount if this mission is going to succeed,” McRaven said. “You’ve got to get them there safely. I can’t tell you how many of the pilots have come back after that and said, ‘That is the first time we had that sort of guidance.’”

McRaven summed up his lessons at the end of the speech: “Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through the day. Find someone to help you battle. Respect everyone. Know that you will fail. Take some risks. Lift up the downtrodden. Face down the bullies. And never, ever quit.”

NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman began the Opening Session by talking about seeing hazards clearly and not giving in to complacency.

“We are becoming blind to everyday hazards,” Hersman said, later using the opioid epidemic as an example. “Hazards in the modern workplace are not as obvious. As we become more sophisticated, hazards become more subtle.”

She asked the crowd to remember a simple set of questions: What do you see? What does it mean? What are you going to do about it?

Dovetailing with Hersman’s remarks, NSC Chairman Mark Vergnano talked about a 360-degree vision to safety. “Make safety not just a priority, but the priority,” he said.

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