Director’s ethical choice by Tommi Alanko

What does Vision Zero thinking mean at workplaces? It’s easy to make decisions about worker safety, but safety should also be actually visible in everyday work.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health is holding an international Vision Zero Summit in Helsinki on 12–14 November.  The conference will discuss Vision Zero thinking, what this should be in today’s changing world, and how it fits in with new industries and their ways of working, such as platform-based work.

In many workplaces, the concept of Vision Zero remains unfamiliar. Like many issues nowadays, the arguments for and against Vision Zero are also being debated on the internet. Vision Zero can mean different things, depending who’s talking about it, and this makes it even harder to grasp. Naturally, we at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also have our own approach, and this is reflected in the activities of the Finnish Vision Zero Forum for workplaces. Come to learn more about the success story of the Forum at the Vision Zero Summit.

To us, Vision Zero means a holistic approach, which aims to continually improve safety, health and well-being at work. It’s not just a numerical goal. I think that each workplace follows its own path. One model does not suit all. But on the way, we can learn, and share our experiences with each other.

Our Vision Zero thinking is summarized as six main areas, of which we have made short videos. You can now view these on the Vision Zero Summit website. In one of the videos I talk about what Vision Zero means as an ethical choice.

At best, everyone is committed and involved

You could imagine that for a director, the choice of worker safety is self-evident. However, actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to say that the safety and well-being of workers comes first, but can you really see this in everyday work?

Extended Vision Zero thinking means that senior management is also committed and involved in promoting safety and well-being at work. In pioneering workplaces, the entire line organization, all the way from top management, is aware of its responsibility and leads safety measures. Occupational safety and health personnel act as experts and support supervisors in their tasks.

But an ethical choice… I think this means choosing not to accept excuses for undermining safety and well-being. We can never be so busy that we compromise the safety of people – friends and colleagues, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, subordinates and subcontractors. And by compromise I mean making choices that can lead to poorer safety. Good safety and well-being also increase the productivity and attractiveness of a company as an employer.

Safety and well-being of workers – it’s a decision that’s easy to voice, but difficult to keep alive each working day.

Tommi Alanko is the Director of the Solutions for Safety unit at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, and is also facing the everyday challenges of safety management.