Blog Post Zero Accidents: An Achievable Goal, Not a Dream




Zero Accidents: An Achievable Goal, Not a Dream

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Yesterday, we reported on Alcoa’s efforts to achieve the goal of zero accidents. Today, we tell you what Skanska USA is doing to reach zero.

“I’m convinced that zero is not only an aspirational goal but also something that is achievable,” says chief EH&S officer Hendrik van Brenk. “Had we predicted 5 years ago the kind of safety performance we see today, we would have said it’s impossible.”

Skanska USA’s current lost-time incident rate is 0.87, compared to an industry average of about 3.6.

In order to reach zero incidents, Skanska USA employees are encouraged to:

  • Take individual responsibility for safety on the job by proactively watching for risks and stopping any activity that looks unsafe.
  • Wear protective gear.
  • Keep the work area clean.
  • Take part in warm-ups to prevent injuries.
  • Look out for co-workers, especially when working at heights.

What Else Do They Do?

These are some of the successful strategies Skanska USA is using to approach zero:

  • Pretask planning. Prework sessions provide an opportunity to communicate messages about the job and the tasks. The purpose of a pretask meeting is not to dictate standards, but to discuss hazards and how to abate them. “We learn how to ask questions and how to engage people in a collaborative way,” says van Brenk.
  • Visible leadership. Executives take safety walks that are not formal inspections but rather an opportunity to engage workers, ask questions, and demonstrate concern. “The dialogue that’s created sends a message—it resonates across the organization to leaders at all levels, including our CEO,” van Brenk explains.
  • Systems approach to safety. Skanska has been ISO-certified for more than a decade and about 4 years ago completed the requirements for OHSAS 18001, an international safety management system. “The systems approach provides a foundational structure to develop meaningful indicators for continuous improvement,” van Brenk says.
  • “Simple things.” Beyond the structural elements of a strong safety process, Skanska USA emphasizes the simple things, such as a stretch-and-flex program, which consists of 10 to 15 minutes of warm-up exercises every morning to prevent ergonomic injuries. And, in fact, such injuries have dropped dramatically. But there are other benefits. “Camraderie is created where people can dialogue around safety, but not only safety,” explains van Brenk. “It’s also an opportunity to prepare mentally for tasks and share announcements and information.”
  • Transformational incentives. “I think we have to eventually move away from transactional incentives, such as earning a reward for not getting injured, to transformational incentives, for example building a project on time, at cost, [and] with zero defects and injuries,” says van Brenk.


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