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A lady wearing unilever uniform in a factory manning a line producing OMO laundry detergent

Safety at work

We want to grow our business responsibly. That means safety is not negotiable – it’s our number one priority.

Safety is about people

Facts and figures are important for measuring safety and driving progress, but they don’t tell the full story.

We believe every single employee and individual should be confident that their working environment is safe and secure. In view of this, we have a responsibility to our 127,000 direct employees, our contractors and suppliers, and our local communities around the world.

To build a true safety culture requires trust and transparency between leaders and employees – we rely on everyone to look out for each other and go “ALL IN! for Safety”.

Laura Ambrose, Chief Safety, Health and Environment Officer

Safety is integral to our culture and is therefore at the forefront of all our activities. In 2022, we held our second annual Safety Day as part of the UN World Day for Safety and Health at Work. We also launched our Together for Safety programme, which requires 100 top leaders to ‘get on the front line’ of safety through site visits.

Our safety performance reflects the success of our safety-related programmes and policies. We are always striving to improve our safety record and a recent area of focus has been machine safety as this is a key contributor to our Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR). A task force was set up to improve machine safety through the introduction of specific standards and training, and by upgrading our machine guards. As a result of these initiatives we have seen incident rates reduce to around 20–30 per year in comparison to 2014, when 81 reported incidents were linked to machine safety.

Our partnerships ensure that we use our influence to improve safety in both the wider community as well as throughout our own operations. In 2022, for example, we worked with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to design and implement the Commercial Vehicle Code of Conduct on vehicle safety and driver requirements.

Safety: a human right at the heart of our business

Health and safety is one of our eight salient human rights issues. We are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees as part of our Code Policy on Occupational Health & Safety which forms part of our Code of Business Principles (PDF 8.55 MB).

These safety standards are also based on mandatory requirements which align with the obligations set out in the international standard for occupational health and safety management, ISO 45001. All standards and guidelines are available to our employees on our intranet. Our Code of Business Principles is reviewed regularly, and along with our employees, we expect all others who work with us to follow the principles set out.

The Board’s Corporate Responsibility Committee (CRC) oversees Unilever’s conduct as a responsible business and reviews our Code of Business Principles to ensure that these remain fit for purpose. The Committee also reviews health and safety strategies and performance through a quarterly scorecard.

Our leaders are responsible for cascading and implementing occupational health and safety among their direct reports and third parties within their remit. We also expect all employees to take responsibility for their safety and those around them by acting in accordance with our Codes. In our own operations, we aim for Zero Harm, which underpins everything we do as a business.

Our work with suppliers to improve safety standards can be found in our Human Rights reports and Human rights in our value chain. If an employee is in breach of our safety standards or procedures, cases are dealt with fairly and objectively. Our consequence management policy varies between the countries in which we operate, reflecting local legislation and frameworks. We can take a range of disciplinary actions against those responsible for poor safety oversight, including dismissal in the most serious cases.

Our safety performance in 2022

We report safety data from 1 October to 30 September annually. Our key metric is Total Recordable Frequency Rate (TRFR) which measures the number of recordable accidents per million hours worked. Our TRFR ending 30 September 2022 was 0.67 accidents per million hours worked, up from 0.55 in 2021.

The increase in TRFR can, in part, be attributed to a return to normal working practices following the disruptive impact of the pandemic.

0.67Accidents per million hours worked in 2022

In November 2021, we very sadly lost an employee who was fatally electrocuted in Kenya after coming into contact with charged water. We want all our employees to feel fully confident about the standards of safety in their working environments, and we continue to review procedures and introduce appropriate measures to minimise risks and prevent accidents. When fatalities do occur, our first priority is to support the needs of the families and team members of the individuals involved, while also working with local law enforcement, communities and regulators to fully investigate the root cause of the incident and determine further preventative measures.

A culture of safety

We take deliberate action to continuously instil a culture of safety across the business.

Our Safety Moments programme helps leaders to reinforce safety principles in their teams and demonstrate their accountability for safety standards – ultimately ensuring that our leaders can ‘walk the talk’ on safety.

A safety moment can take many forms within our business, from Unilever-wide pledges to small reflection groups, where employees can openly discuss safety processes in the workplace. We want to create a culture where everyone feels able to intervene in the interests of safety.

All our safety guidance is built into our Unilever Manufacturing System. Manufacturing sites develop individual plans that drive improvements based on their particular risk profile – such as hazardous substances, and electrical or mechanical risks. This helps to build a strong and interdependent safety culture across all levels of our organisation, all under one framework.

Recognising safety best practice

Our annual Global Safety Awards celebrate the outstanding work of our teams around the world to build a positive safety culture. In 2022, we widened the scope of the Global Safety Awards to include third-party business partners in warehousing, transporter carriers and collaborative manufacturing. The Premier Safety award winner was R&D in Mumbai, India, for their success in using digital solutions to drive an improved safety culture.

Externally, Unilever’s Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Director for South Asia won Leader of the Year for her contribution to SHE in the Indian Occupational Safety and Health organisation awards.

Unilever safety award winner accepting award

Making the roads safer for everyone

Travel continues to be the highest risk activity involving Unilever employees, third-party suppliers and members of the public. In 2022, we launched a Safe Travel campaign to re-establish the basics around road safety. We also conducted global strategy reviews with the leaders of high-risk countries to advance our best practices.

Our Safe Travel Standard requires that all organisations develop and implement an effective Safe Travel in Vehicles programme, which covers all vehicles purchased or leased by Unilever and all privately owned vehicles driven by our employees on Unilever business. It stipulates the use of telematic devices for high-risk drivers in high- and medium-risk countries to monitor driver behaviour in real time. We believe this is an effective way of reducing road-related incidents and we encourage our business partners to adopt the same measures. We are now looking beyond telematics to more advanced monitoring systems to identify issues such as fatigue while driving.

Improving road safety also includes working with partners outside of Unilever to advocate for a safer working environment and society.

Contractor safety

In the same way as we are focused on providing safer working conditions for our employees, we are equally committed to providing safer environments for our contracting partners on our sites.

Over the last five years, we have strengthened our Construction Safety Programme with initiatives including Construction Safety Standards improvements, Capability Building Workshops, and the deployment of Global Construction Safety Tools.

How we’re managing process safety

Process safety governance is driven by the Process Safety Steering Committee (PSSC), sponsored by the Chief Supply Chain Officer. The PSSC is represented by senior leaders, Technical Authorities from our Engineering community and Global SHE. Unilever’s key global internal safety standards and third-party Process Safety Management (PSM) audit framework are endorsed by the Committee. These measures support the identification of issues, implementation of action plans and subsequent monitoring of improvements. Issue-specific standards are also in place to support global standards, i.e. hazard-specific standards for individual sites.

As we manufacture a wide variety of products, we have a responsibility to ensure that our operating systems and processes are carefully designed and monitored to protect the people who come into contact with them. Process safety continues to be a key focus area to manage risks in our business and is organised around 12 Process Safety Technical Authorities, with strong governance through the Business Groups.

We have also expanded our Technical Authority governance model to upskill employees across all geographies and drive continuous improvement programmes within our factories. The Technical Authorities at various levels have expanded to over 150 across all Business Groups and geographies.

In the six years since the start of the Committee, process safety has continuously improved, with a 32% yearly reduction in third-party severe audit risk findings. In the last two years, less than 5% high severity audit findings. All high hazard (hazards with impact to community) sites have invested in asset health and design upgrades to achieve satisfactory process safety health scores. With the required commitment of Capex and talent, the risk-based process safety programme has now shifted from reactive to predictive performance.

50%Reduction in contractors’ recordable incidents since 2018

Training for everyone, no matter what their role

In 2021, we launched our new Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Learning Portal, SHEnet, as the one-stop shop for all online and on-demand SHE training. This offers our employees opportunities to develop their safety knowledge and complete certifications. The portal is also used for recording incidents and observations across all our sites which allows us to track safety performance better. In 2022, we continued to develop our content catalogue, including the addition of digitised audits.

For factory employees, safety training starts before they begin their roles. We have a behaviour-based safety programme which is designed to build knowledge and ensure that all employees are committed to helping achieve Vision Zero. This is our company-wide ambition to have no fatalities in our operations.

Our safety performance in detail

We know that some stakeholders appreciate more in-depth disclosure on our safety performance. Below we provide progress against our preferred accident rate indicator for reporting TRFR for employees since 2010. The TRFR measures the number of occupational accidents per one million hours worked and includes all workplace accidents, excluding only those that require simple first-aid treatment.

The main types of incidents that occur in our manufacturing sites are slips/trips/falls and injuries to hands and arms. In non-manufacturing sites, slips/trips/falls are also the most common type of incident, along with travel-related injuries mainly linked to road accidents.

Accident rates

Year

Total Recordable Frequency Rate per million hours worked

2022

0.67

2021

0.55

2020

0.63

2019

0.76

2018

0.69

2017

0.89

2016

1.01

2015

1.12

2014

1.05

2013

1.03

2012

1.16

2011

1.27

2010

1.63

Notes

In 2013, we adjusted our reporting period from 1 January to 31 December to 1 October to 30 September. PwC has assured our TRFR from 2014 onwards. Since 2019, we have included new acquisitions that operate as decentralised business units in our TRFR; had we included these in 2017 and 2018, our reported TRFR would have been approximately 6% higher in each year.

TRFR is one of two occupational safety performance indicators that has been independently assured by PwC (the other is the number of fatal accidents).

TRFR is calculated as the sum of all lost‐time accidents (LTA) plus restricted work cases (RWC) plus medical treatment cases (MTC), expressed as a rate per million hours worked.

In line with industry best practice, we include in our definition of an ‘employee’, temporary staff and contractors who work under our direct supervision and we capture TRFR for all Unilever manufacturing and non-manufacturing sites (such as offices and research laboratories).

In 2022, the total hours worked equalled 327,116,930.

Fatal accidents

Year

Employees off-site

Employees on-site

Contractors on-site

2022

0

1

0

2021

2

2

3

2020

1

0

2

2019

2

0

2

2018

0

1

0

2017

1

0

0

2016

1

0

3

2015

1

0

1

2014

1

0

3

2013

0

0

1

2012

3

0

1

2011

0

2

1

2010

0

2

1

Notes

In 2013, we adjusted our reporting period from 1 January to 31 December to 1 October to 30 September.

Fatalities is one of two occupational safety performance indicators that has been independently assured by PwC. The other indicator is TRFR.

Lost-Time Injury Frequency Rate

Alongside monitoring accidents, it’s vital we analyse their frequency and the nature of any injuries. Our internal reporting system helps us collect more granular data on our Lost-Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR).

LTIFR measures injuries per million hours worked (from 1 October to 30 September). It counts all ‘lost-time’ safety injuries, i.e. injuries that keep people away from work even for one day.

We measure LTIFR for all our direct employees. For the purposes of reporting, we also include contractors under our direct supervision within our direct employee numbers (these are typically the contractors who work on our production lines). We improved LTIFR to 0.24 injuries per million hours worked in 2022.

We also report the contractors who do not work under our direct supervision (who typically provide project or business support). We’ve been using our internal system to help improve safety for these contractors.

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

Direct employees (and contractors under direct supervision)

0.51

0.59

0.51

0.53

0.37

0.38

0.29

0.24

0.25

Contractors (not under direct supervision)

0.96

0.63

0.57

0.56

0.47

0.50

0.43

0.43

0.21

Occupational Illness Frequency Rate

Our occupational health programmes cover the prevention of work-related illness and occupational diseases, ergonomics, environmental health and protection from noise and enzymes. See Employee wellbeing for more information.

We track occupational illnesses for our employees under the criteria laid down by the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Using the Occupational Illness Frequency Rate (OIFR), we measure the number of work-related ill health cases per million hours worked for all our direct employees (from 1 January to 31 December each year). We do not yet measure this for contractors or the temporary staff we call ‘contingent labour’.

Since 2017, we have seen a steady decline in our OIFR, which now stands at 0.10 per million hours worked, the lowest level since we started reporting.

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

2022

Direct employees

0.54

0.53

0.60

0.78

0.58

0.58

0.41

0.13

0.10

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