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The history of CII’s Role the advent of the zero injury concept

By Dr. Richard Tucker


I am honored to provide my perspective on the “The History of Zero Injury” which is also covered in detail in Emmitt’s book “The Employer Safety Guidebook to Zero Employee Injury.” Perhaps my perspective will be useful in providing the context of this important work.


While I served as the Founding Director of the Construction Industry Institute, a research organization involving many of our nation’s largest owners, contractors and universities, the concept of Zero Accidents came into being. CII was itself a pioneer effort and, in its early days, its industry representatives met regularly to identify important research areas. At one of these meetings, Keith Price, Executive Vice-President of Morrison-Knudson, stated “We need to address construction safety.  We must find ways to reduce injuries on our job sites.” Thus, CII began its safety research studies in the mid-1980’s.  Expectations were modest, since the industry’s safety statistics had not improved for many years.


Emmitt and I were not well acquainted at that time, and he was not involved in the initial CII safety research. As representative for Shell Oil Company, he was elected as Chairman of the Business Roundtable’s Construction Committee, an organization known for its earlier “Construction Industry Cost Effectiveness Project.” With the support of John Bookout, CEO of Shell Oil Company, the Business Roundtable Construction Committee, under the Directorship of Richard F. Kibben, launched a major safety initiative. That initiative, built around safety excellence awards and recognition, for owners and contractors, significantly raised the visibility of safety in the owner community. As this effort progressed, Emmitt’s passion for safety improvement became increasingly obvious. He retired from Shell Oil Company after completing his term as chairman of the Construction Committee, but continued his drive for safety improvements as a safety management consultant.


Shortly after Emmitt’s retirement, the CII began considering additional safety research. It even set goals for safety improvements for its companies to achieve by the year 2000.  (The goals were modest; only a 25% improvement.)  At one of the CII Board of Advisors meetings, a member stated “We must find ways to eliminate all accidents on our job sites.  Only zero accidents is acceptable!” Thus, a name and charge were born for a new research effort. I then contacted Jim Braus, a Shell executive, and asked if the company might re-hire Emmitt, as a consultant, to lead the Zero Accidents Research Team. Shell readily agreed.


As they say, “the rest is history.” Emmitt’s passion was shared by the other team members. They brainstormed and formulated ways to generate a “zero accidents” mentality throughout the industry. I felt that some of their ideas were impractical and cautioned against their implementation. They didn’t take my advice, and they were right. The CII videotape, “One Too Many” and its associated Zero Injury publications rapidly became CII’s most widely adopted products. Many CII member company safety records improved dramatically, as illustrated in this book.


Emmitt’s devotion to Zero Injury in employee safety continues. He is one of our industry’s most noted safety consultants and has been recognized by election to the National Academy of Construction. This book will not be the culmination of his efforts, because he will continue to be active. However, it provides a seminal contribution to our drive for safety improvements.


By Dr. Richard L. Tucker,

Joe C. Walter, Jr. Chair in Engineering,

The University of Texas, Austin


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