It's unfortunate that right around the time we get ready to create this list every 2 years, a horrific workplace tragedy makes headlines. 

The explosion and fire at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas, reminded us that not only are our facilities at risk, but the neighborhoods surrounding them as well. And a series of fires and building collapses in Bangladesh killed 1,000 workers in the past 12 months, forcing us to question the outsourcing of so much of the world's garment industry. How safe should we consider our U.S.-headquartered companies when the people manufacturing their products in other countries are dying?

The Newsmakers

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made waves earlier this year when a leaked memo outlined the company's plans to rein in working-from-home arrangements. The policy sparked conversations surrounding the benefits and pitfalls of telecommuting at companies around the world.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie set politics aside during a polarized election season and made headlines last fall by praising the federal government's response to Hurricane Sandy, telling whoever would listen that President Barack Obama "kept every promise" that was made regarding help for the state in the wake of the storm. While his words irked members of his political party, his honesty showed him to be a man who cared only about getting help for his devastated constituents in a time of emergency.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg struck a nerve with workers struggling to find a work/life balance when she announced she works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and gives the rest of her time to her family. Before she publicly acknowledged her commitment to a 9-5 day, she would send colleagues late night and early morning emails, so that they would assume she already was in the office at dawn or working late.

Morris Bridges, Perry Calvin, Jerry Chapman, Cody Dragoo, Joey Pustejovsky, Robert Snokhous, Doug Snokhous, Cyrus Reed and Kevin Sanders – the volunteer firefighters and emergency responders who were killed in the West Fertilizer Co. fire and explosion on April 17. Also killed were Kenneth "Luckey" Harris, Jimmy Matus, Judith Monroe, Mariano C. Saldivar, Buck Uptmor and Adolph Lander.

The Authors

Terry Mathis, an internationally recognized expert in the application of safety culture and behavior-based safety strategies, founded ProAct Safety in 1993. Before founding ProAct, he was a director of training for Coca-Cola. Shawn M. Galloway, president and COO of ProAct Safety, has helped hundreds of organizations within every major industry to achieve and sustain excellence in performance and culture. Together, they authored STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence.

Dr. E. Scott Geller is a founding partner and co-owner of Safety Performance Solutions whose work focuses on cultivating an actively caring work culture in order to reduce and eliminate injuries. He is alumni distinguished professor at Virginia Tech and director of the Center for Applied Behavior Systems in the Department of Psychology. He recently published his latest book, Actively Caring for People.

The Gurus

Dr. Richard D. Fulwiler, CIH, CSHM, is president of Cincinnati-based Technology Leadership Associates, a consulting firm specializing in increasing individual effectiveness and building organizational capability in the health, safety and environmental arena.He previously spent 28 years working with Procter & Gamble, where he retired as the company's director of health and safety worldwide.

Kathy A. Seabrook, CSP, CMIOSH, EurOSHM, is the first person to take two places on our Top 50 list (see the association category). Seabrook is president of Global Solutions Inc., an EHS management consultancy for multinational companies, and advises the Fortune 500 on EHS and sustainability. 

John Viera is global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters at Ford Motor Co., a position he has held since January 2007. In this role, Viera is responsible for developing global sustainable business plans and policies, interfacing with global regulatory bodies, reporting externally on the company's environmental and social performance and leading the company's engagement and partnerships with non-government organizations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders.

Fay Feeney, CSP, ARM, launched Risk for Good (R4G) in 2010, a board advisory firm that works exclusively with independent directors who want to strengthen risk oversight in the boardroom. Prior to R4G, she founded Envision Strategic Group to provide advisory services on emerging business trends that impact strategy and growth. This includes risk management, corporate social responsibility and sustainability and human capital.

Deborah McKeever is the president of EHE International and predicts dire consequences for employers if the chronic diseases suffered by their employees are not controlled and managed (or eliminated). She warns that fit-to-work adults might become an endangered species, while predicting the cost of chronic diseases to business will climb to $4.2 trillion by 2023 if steps aren't taken now to improve the health of workers.