Aiming for Zero

The evolution toward a zero injury safety culture in union construction and maintenance began in the mid-1980s, when owner-clients began to realize the true cost of on-the job injuries, which often ran into the tens of millions of dollars annually. Owners who in the past had taken a hands-off approach to the safety standards of their contractors began to get more involved. The importance of protecting workers – not to mention the potential cost savings – prompted them to take action.

As one longtime union contractor put it, “If you can’t be safe, if you can’t develop a safety culture within your organization, if you can’t lead safety within your organization, you’re not going to be in business.”

Leaders in the industrial construction and maintenance fields began studying the methods of those companies that managed, seemingly against all odds, to consistently complete large projects without a single employee injury.

Finally, in 1999, the NMAPC decided to begin formally recognizing industrial projects that were completed with zero injuries as a way to emphasize the quality of union construction. Veteran safety consultant Emmitt Nelson, who pioneered the use of the zero injury concept, worked with the NMAPC Safety and Health Subcommittee to create a set of guidelines for recognition. The next year, the Zero Injury Safety Awards® were born…and the rest, as they say, is history.