At an opening session complete with an Elvis impersonator, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) kicked off Safety 2013 in Las Vegas with some spark and swagger – but ultimately drove home the conference’s true mission: helping EHS professionals do their jobs and save workers’ lives.

After bursting on stage to the sounds of the University of Las Vegas marching band and singing “Viva Las Vegas,” Elvis officially welcomed Safety 2013 attendees to the city of lights and entertainment and kicked off a high-energy opening session.

But former OSHA Administrator John Henshaw wasn’t about to be upstaged by Elvis. Henshaw took the stage on a more serious note by highlighting several worker fatalities. He briefly shared the stories of Tina Hall, who lost her life in June 2007 when a vat of chemicals ignited at her place of work; Terrance Hennessy, who died in 2005 when a crane fell on the construction site where he worked; and Chad McDonald, who lost his life in April 2013 when the oil refinery he worked for experienced a flash fire.

“These tragedies are avoidable. I thank each of you in dedicating your professional lives in preventing these tragedies. I’m very proud of the strides we’ve made [in occupational health and safety] but I grieve for those who have lost and for their families,” he said.

Henshaw stressed that families who lose a loved one to a workplace incident need a variety of assistance and support, including access to a good education. That’s where the ASSE Foundation’s new Family Scholarship Fund comes into play. This scholarship provides funds to spouses and children of fallen workers.

With Henshaw’s contribution of $10,000 and matching gifts from ASSE and the Foundation, the scholarship fund currently has raised a pool of $30,000. Henshaw encouraged Safety 2013 attendees to contribute to this scholarship fund to assist the families affected by workplace fatalities.

“We cannot bring the lives lost back, but we can do our part to ease the lost,” he said. “No gift is too small, and I’m here today to ask you to help honor the families of those lost by helping their loved ones.”

Learn more about the ASSE Foundation’s Family Scholarship Fund, and stay tuned for additional Safety 2013 conference coverage on EHSToday.com.