Safety same-old... except for Wii extinguishers??

The virtual fire extinguisher was interesting (potential Nintendo Wii game?), the microwavable footwear insoles seemed a bit strange, and wireless industrial controls bring up visions of a scary future. ("Mr. Baker, your safety system is on line 10.") Otherwise, here were few surprises on the trade show floor at this year's Industrial Accident Prevention Association Health & Safety Conference in Toronto.

While there was an impressive number of companies from all over Ontario, and a few from farther out, there were no truly exciting innovations this time out. In every aisle there were people hawking the same brands of gloves and boots, as well as extremely similar personal protective equipment, while training companies lined the aisles like tulips in a well-groomed garden.

I was specifically hunting for newly hatched ideas or re-invented old stuff to make our planet a little safer, but could not find them. I thought for sure the big guys like 3M or DuPont would wake me up, but both had small booths with surprisingly few wares to show off. They were there in body but not in spirit. Acklands-Grainger and North Safety Products both had sizable booths with sizable staffs, but aside from showcasing the latest versions of current products, they were rather unexciting.

Quite a few company representatives were intimidated by a member of the media asking something as simple as "what's new?" Trade shows are all about yakking it up and making contacts, not passing the buck and hoping I'll go away.

Want to score lots of free stuff? Try getting to a trade show early; the floor officially opened up at 7:30 a.m., but only about one-fifth of the booths were staffed in the first hour. So if you need to stock up on swag, get there early!

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