With over eight years in the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), Lars Beckman is a veteran on the political scene in Sweden. His driving cause over the years has been free enterprise and the importance of entrepreneurship, but Lars has also been involved in road safety issues and fights for a greater focus on safety and quality in public procurement — as a way to show the way regarding the Zero Vision for workplace accidents.
There hasn’t been a sustainable decrease in workplace fatalities in Sweden for the past 10 years and in 2019, 46 people died. Do you think that workplace safety is sufficiently prioritised by legislators, regulators and companies?
One of the problems is goal conflicts. An example from the traffic safety area is the studded tire ban in cities such as Uppsala and Stockholm. This has been introduced due to environmental reasons, but the consequence is that professional drivers are forced to drive with less safe tires in all places, even those that do not have a ban. That makes their jobs much less safe.
In general, however, I do not think we need more regulation but rather need to find ways to encourage companies to prioritize safety at par with other goals. I have visited Skanska several times and think they are a role model in how they work with safety. Every time there is a serious accident at one of their construction sites around the world, work is stopped on all construction sites in all countries. That’s an excellent example of how high a priority is given to safety there.
What can be done, concretely, from a political point of view to encourage more companies to act in this way?
I think many large and medium-sized companies do a good job on workplace safety, but each workplace is no better than its weakest link. Especially in the construction industry, you have many different contractors and subcontractors on the site and you have to make sure that each company maintains a high quality, not just a low price. Politically, we can encourage this by placing higher demands on safety in public procurement and having it as a stronger element in the follow-up. I have seen far too many examples of when price has too strong an impact on the choice of supplier and also several examples where certain safety levels have been agreed upon but not followed up.
We received a question from the latest interviewee, Hans Olov Blom. He wanted to ask you how should we ensure that security work does not become a price issue?
I think we should have zero tolerance for accidents! No one should have to think that when Greta goes to work, she may not come home again. We must also realize that safety doesn’t come for free, you need to have a realistic price expectation. You can not make demands and then not want to pay for it. At the moment, I’m frustrated that we have a government player dumping the prices on safety in the construction industry. It gives an unrealistic picture of what safety costs and does not generate more competitors and solutions in the market.
Who do you want to nominate for the next interview and what question do you want to ask?
Pekka Seitola — venture capitalist, business angel and local politician. I would like to ask him how we can better nurture entrepreneurship in Sweden. I think that people who dare to take risks and build something — entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — are societies’ heroes!