Offering yet another sign that Florida is emerging from the yearlong crisis precipitated by COVID-19, the Florida Chamber kicks off its first in-person conference since the beginning of the pandemic today through Wednesday at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.
Fittingly, the event they are hosting — the inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety Health and Sustainability — has arranged several safeguards to keep its 330 attendees safe. They are required to wear face coverings. There also will be on-site temperature screenings and COVID-19 rapid tests, as well as social distancing and hand sanitizer stations. A blood drive is part of the gathering with COVID-19 antibody testing.
“All of that has been put in place to make sure … we can be live, but we can do that in a really, really safe way,” said Ivette Faulkner, the Florida Chamber’s Executive Vice President for Strategic Communication and Marketing. The conference also is offering a virtual option to attend the conference’s professional development training and 31 educational sessions. In addition, there will be an exhibition hall on-site featuring 25 vendors.
The conference is attracting EHS — Environment, Health and Safety — professionals from across the south. While the COVID-19 crisis has been front-and-center over the past year, its practitioners can be faced with a wide range of workplace situations — everything from slip-and-falls, protective equipment and disaster preparedness to OSHA regulations and workplace violence — all of which and more will be covered in the three-day meeting.
Other speakers include Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, The Florida Chamber had created a safety group to help propel the state to become one of the safest, healthiest and most sustainable in the nation. The pandemic and its impact on every business in Florida have highlighted the critical importance of EHS’s purpose.
“Safety is Job 1 to Florida’s business leaders, which is why the Florida Chamber Safety Council is working to unite Florida’s business community for a movement to create a culture of safety,” said Florida Chamber Safety Council President Katie Yeutter. “We will set the national standard on what the council can provide to businesses, and that includes everything from day-to-day safety programs to help with long-term issues such as preventing opioid and marijuana misuse, supporting mental health and OSHA compliance.”
To complete its mission, the Council tapped into Florida’s leading companies and their safety leaders and created an Advisory Board to serve as an incubator of research, leadership and education. It also provides resources, tools and best practices for small to midsized businesses that don’t have full-time safety, health and sustainability expertise on staff.
While this is the first Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety Health and Sustainability, organizers plan on making it an annual event conveniently based in Central Florida.
“The conference will be where we bring the industry together every year to talk about how we’re moving the needle, what are the trends, what’s the data is saying, what are the best practices, and what are the tools,” said Faulkner. “We want to hear from leaders in safety, health and sustainability from across the country so that these (attendees) can take it back to their workplace and implement it and then hopefully get us to those goals of being the safest state in America.”
The Safety Council is just one of the key targets and strategies articulated in the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida 2030 Blueprint, a forward-looking report unveiled in 2018. It includes six “pillars” for the state’s immediate future — talent supply and education, innovation and economic development, infrastructure and growth leadership, business climate and competitiveness, civic and governance systems, and quality of life and quality places — with measurable goals attached to each to be achieved in the ensuing 12 years. Progress toward those goals can be tracked at TheFloridaScorecard.org.
“As we prepare for the 26 million Floridians who will call Florida home and the 2 million more jobs needed by 2030, the Florida Chamber Safety Council is an important step toward achieving our Florida 2030 Blueprint goal for Florida to be in the Top 5 states for overall well-being,” said Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson.