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Vision Zero: no caveats

Vision Zero: no caveats
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Australian property and construction behemoth Lendlease adopted its own version of Vision Zero 15 years ago but only realised the full business implications some years later, after a number of fatalities.

Brian Long, group head of sustainability and safety, told the Congress that the company – these days with 12,500 employees and some 50,000 contractors – adopted an “incident and injury free” vision in 2001/2002 as part of its view that everyone has the right not to be adversely affected by its operations.

“I was part of the group back then,” he said, “and the real commitment to not harming people was palpable, it generated a lot of energy. Yet for ten years we averaged six deaths a year across the organisation.”

Being committed to good safety outcomes isn’t enough, he said. In Lendlease’s case it was discovered that its original safety vision was being compromised in practice by what he called caveats: by people saying, in effect ‘I am committed to the vision but ...’, where the ‘but’ might be, for example, ‘but our contractors aren’t’.

Long said that in 2009/2010 the company’s board had concluded that if it really believed in being free of injuries and incidents then no caveats on that commitment could be accepted. “We started to take business decisions and safety decisions in parallel. If we do a job, we asked: can we do it safely? That triggered something spectacular.”

In each year from 2013 to 2016 there were no fatalities. Then in April 2017 there was a fatality, then another.

“Last week our CFO stood in front of employees and said we made $760m in profit yet once again people died in our operations.”

Long said the company’s commitment to Vision Zero was as strong today as it was back in 2001.

“I am convinced we will eradicate these things. We have to be relentlessly focused. You have to stay the course, you need resilience. You have to understand what your key risks are, and have an ethos of caring for your people.”



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Brian Long
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