Making our safety vision a reality

To achieve our Vision Zero, we assess the risks attached to all our activities and develop programmes to tackle them.

Safe Driving

Making the roads safer, for us & for others

We have a responsibility to ensure that our employees keep themselves and the public safe when they are behind the wheel. And the need to reduce road injuries and deaths has been recognised as a worldwide priority in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 on Good Health and Well-being.

Our Safe Travel in Vehicles Standard is at the heart of our effort to make the roads safer for our employees, and for communities.

Our Safe Travel in Vehicles Standard

Our Safe Travel in Vehicles Standard sets out our mandatory requirements for all our organisations in the areas of leadership, planning, driver requirements, vehicle operation, performance monitoring, reward and recognition, and disciplinary procedures.

It includes the stipulation that employee work schedules, remuneration and incentive schemes must be kept under review by the organisation’s senior management team to ensure that they encourage safe driving patterns and practices.

It also stipulates that local legal requirements must take precedence over Unilever requirements if they are more stringent.

Our Safe Travel in Vehicles Standard is supported by our Safe Travel Roadmap. We revised the Roadmap in 2016 to give line managers and drivers step-by-step guidance. In 2018 we carried out a risk analysis in all countries with a Unilever vehicle fleet – around 100 countries. The assessment used external and Unilever-specific internal data to calculate our risk ratings. Our ultimate aim is to tailor each country's Safe Travel programme to address specific local risks. We also issued global guidance to discourage inter-city night driving in all countries. Every country now has a clear policy to minimise night-driving.

At the same time, we established new guidance on ‘motorised two wheelers’ – that is, motorbikes, mopeds and scooters. They’re an important part of our transport infrastructure in many markets, where they are often the only option for reaching our customers, and their use is governed by mandatory safety requirements which include specific in-class and on-the-road training. Since 2018, we’ve prohibited the introduction of motorised two-wheelers in countries where they are not currently used.

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Recordable serious injuries involving mobile phones in 2018

Mobile phone use is considered one of the leading causes of vehicle accidents worldwide. Our mandatory global ban on the use of hand-held and hands-free phones while driving – Motor On, Mobile Off – is a key part of our Safe Travel programme. We introduced this ban with an extensive communications campaign in 2015. In 2018, there was no recordable serious injury where use of a mobile phone was found to be a contributing factor.

Understanding the consequences

Violations of safety rules need to be addressed fairly and objectively. Countries have ‘consequence management policies’ in place, aligned with local legislation and frameworks. This means that we can impose a range of disciplinary actions on those responsible for poor safety oversight – which can include dismissal in the most serious cases.

In 2018, we developed new guidance so leaders can more clearly understand their accountability when serious incidents occur because our policies and standards have not been implemented.

Supporting standards with technology

Alongside policies and standards, technology plays an important role in road safety too – whether by delivering online training or through the use of ‘telematics’ (also known as ‘black boxes’) to track and record driving behaviour and promote safe driving techniques.

Every country tracks safe travel through a range of parameters, such as driver training or mileage. In 2017, we introduced a new tool for high- and medium-risk countries: our Airsweb Safe Travel Module. We use it to ensure that all drivers complete their obligatory defensive driving training courses, report any safety incidents, track driver mileage and make the best of route risk assessments.

We have launched a new telematics portfolio for our ice cream truck fleet in Mexico. It helps control drivers’ working regimes, safety belt usage and fatigue (see below). And worldwide, we’ve introduced additional requirements for the third-party transportation companies which drive our employees to and from work, including the requirement to equip all buses with black boxes.

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Decrease in injuries from road-related collisions 2016−2018

Together, our standards, programmes and technology are leading to significant improvements in road safety. In 2017 we saw road-related collisions resulting in employee injuries drop from 26 to 13 accidents. In 2018, those incidents reduced to 11. While that’s a 58% reduction since 2016, there’s still more to do to reach our vision of zero accidents.


Holanda truck

Using technology to make our ice cream fleet safer in Mexico

You can buy our ice creams in more than 150,000 locations in Mexico - in the mountains, in the deserts, in the forests, and in the towns and cities. And getting our products to those points of sale means a substantial fleet of 1,100 vehicles - around 600 of our distinctive Helados Holanda ice cream trucks, and a range of other vehicles for sales teams, managers, and support staff.

We want our drivers - and the public - to be safe on the roads everywhere. But Mexico's varied geography, security situation and road infrastructure mean that it has been one of the most challenging environments to deliver our Safe Travel in Vehicles programme.

In 2018, we made radical changes to our approach to road safety in Mexico. As well as introducing new methods of risk assessment and better processes, we began to invest in new technology: telematics.

Telematics allow us to monitor driver behaviour more closely than ever before. As well as measuring speed, the black boxes include a range of measurements, such as acceleration, braking, speed around corners and seat-belt use. Video of the road, and in the cab, gives us further information.

The technology directly helps our drivers by giving them a real-time measure of their driving, scored on a traffic light system. And as managers get live notifications when drivers stray into the 'red', it helps us deliver feedback and training.

By the end of 2018, we'd installed telematics in more than half our ice cream trucks in Mexico. It’s too early to attribute changes to the technology, which is just one of the improvements we made in 2018. But we do know that an early sample group of drivers that was consistently scored in the 'red', quickly adapted their driving to 'green'. We saw too that road accidents in our whole fleet reduced by 25% in 2018 compared to 2017.

We’re making a contribution to SDG 3.6 which seeks to halve deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. And as the telematics encourage better, as well as safer, more secure, driving, we expect to see benefits beyond safety - including fuel economy and lower vehicle maintenance costs.

This work contributes to the following UN Sustainable Development Goal

  • Good Health and Wellbeing)

Safer behaviour, safer people

Policies, guidelines and procedures on their own do not always keep people safe. An effective safety management system aims to eliminate unsafe conditions, but it must also target potentially unsafe acts. That means people’s safety depends to a large degree on how they, and the people around them, behave. That’s why the safety pillar of our World Class Manufacturing Programme (WCM) includes an important focus on behaviour-based safety.

Our World Class Manufacturing Programme (WCM)

World Class Manufacturing is the continuous improvement system we use in our manufacturing sites. It’s implemented through a structured, step-by-step approach that engages employees and promotes positive behaviours. Using these company-wide foundations, sites develop tailored plans that drive continuous improvement based on their particular challenges.

The objective of our World Class Manufacturing's safety pillar is to foster a robust and interdependent safety culture.

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Reduction in accidents achieved in our most advanced factories 2013−2018

WCM helps us create a strong, consolidated safety culture across all levels of our organisation. As a result, our ‘mature’ (most advanced) sites have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in accidents of 63% (measured as Total Recordable Accident Frequency Rate over 2013–2018).

Our leadership team receives mandatory training on the importance of WCM, and we expect leaders to ‘walk the talk’. We remind our employees that we’re all responsible for making the right choices when it comes to the safety of ourselves and others, whether they work in a factory, in an office or elsewhere. Our Make the Right Choice communications campaign underlined this message in 2018 with a renewed emphasis on the importance of individual decision-making.

Personal stories work best to engage and motivate people. Our leaders are crucial role models to lead our campaigns and emotionally connect with people to encourage them to make the right choice.

Zakhar Boyarintsev, our Group Safety Manager


Safety Spotlight

Safer choices in action

Making the right choice can be a matter of behaviour, process or the equipment on our sites. And while safety always takes priority over cost, when the safer choice also brings savings, it’s a win–win.

That was the case at our Horana soap factory in western Sri Lanka, where addressing a process safety risk identified by our safety engineers led to a change for the better in terms of equipment and costs.

Soap-making involves the use of what’s called ‘nitrogen blanketing’ to keep key ingredients stable. Until 2018, at Horana that meant tankers delivering liquid nitrogen, which was stored under pressure in a cryogenic (very low temperature) storage facility.

To our safety team, this presented an opportunity to find a lower-risk alternative, which reduced the danger of an accident during delivery or containment.

The solution was installing an on-site nitrogen generation plant. As Sanjay Harlalka, our Safety, Health and Environment Director for South Asia, explains: “This plant uses a carbon molecular sieve (CMS) process and compressed air to generate 99.9% pure nitrogen on demand. There is no storage required, and no loss of nitrogen at the time of plant shutdowns.

“It means we’ve moved from a potentially hazardous cryogenic nitrogen storage facility to a low-risk option which is equally effective. That’s what we aim for when we're eliminating process risk. And there’s also a financial business benefit – a cost saving of 3.9 million Sri Lankan rupees (around $26,000) a year.”

Encouraging progress on process safety incidents

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Reduction in process safety incidents in 2018

Process safety is the way we manage our production by applying good design principles, engineering and operating practices from the very beginning of a project.

In 2018, we reduced process safety incidents by 39.5% compared to 2017. We achieved this through increased engagement by our teams and the use of new tools to support our technical professionals in verifying that our facilities comply with Unilever’s commitment to safety and sustainability.

That’s been supported by capability-building – for example, in 2018, we had a focus on training in South Asia and Africa for engineers and Safety, Health and Environment professionals. And with the help of our World Class Manufacturing programme, we’ve been able to drive faster adoption of standards and use a risk-based approach to prioritise action.


Tomas Dudzinski

Jebel Ali: 12 years accident-free at our biggest tea factory

We’ve been producing Lipton tea at our Jebel Ali factory in Dubai, UAE, since 2000. In 2018, the factory celebrated its twelfth consecutive year without a lost-time accident.

That means employees at our biggest tea factory have worked 2.2 million hours without a single recorded injury. It’s a proud achievement – one that was celebrated in 2018 when our Chief Supply Chain Officer Marc Engel (left) gave our Premier Safety Award to our Factory Leader, Tomasz Dudzinski.

Construction & contractor safety

Keeping people safe during construction of all kinds is a priority for us. Following the introduction of our Construction Safety Standard in 2015, we have continued to expand construction safety standards into our supply chain.

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Reduction in contractors’ recordable injuries 2014–2018

In 2014 we began collecting data specifically related to contractor safety (for those who work on our sites under the direct supervision of their own management). Contractors’ recordable injuries (measured by Lost-Time Injuries Frequency Rate, LTIFR) have progressively decreased since then, reducing by 51% over 2014–2018. This reflects a renewed commitment from countries to dedicate professional and technical resources to supporting our 400 Safety, Health and Environment construction safety standards, and to building capability in our project management teams.

Key to our progress has been the ability to provide construction training at the right time with the right emphasis – and both virtually and face to face. It means safety experts work with projects during periods of high intensity construction, and lessons and best practice are shared through networks. In 2018, we recruited a senior construction safety professional to lead this global effort across our safety and engineering teams.

For further details see Monitoring our safety performance.

Machinery safety

Safety vest

Reduction in ‘hand in machine’ incidents in 2018

We continue to work on improving the safety of our employees who work with machinery. We’re focusing particularly on reducing injuries caused when people’s hands get caught in machines. While these injuries are falling year by year, they still remain one of our most common factory injuries. We’re working hard to assess all the risks related to our equipment and to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

At the same time as we drive continuous improvement on machinery risks, we’ve been running an employee capability-building programme. During 2018, we organised machinery safety workshops at sites around the world that we identified as higher risk, using them as training hubs for local markets; we also introduced new e-learning sessions. This training aims to build employees’ ability to identify hazards and assess their risks.

We’ve created safety standards and guidelines for new technology, robotics and automation. We ensure that any new machinery arriving at our sites is ‘safe by design’ – and we are working with vendors and industry experts to assess existing machinery safety risks and identify improvements.

North America achieves zero injuries in non-manufacturing

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Reduction in all injuries in North America 2008–2018

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Injuries in non-manufacturing in North America in 2018

Our overall safety performance improvements have been driven by sustained reductions in injury rates in countries around the world.

In North America, for example, a combination of global and local policies has helped drive a 71% reduction in our total injury frequency rate since our baseline of 2008. There have been reductions across our operations, with manufacturing injuries reduced by 61% over that time – and in 2018, we achieved zero injuries across our non-manufacturing sites.

Safest year on record shows us what more we need to do

Neal Saiz

Neal Saiz, our Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) Director for North America.

“We've had our best ever year for safety performance in the US and Canada. It’s given us the opportunity to see what Vision Zero looks like – and what more we need to do to achieve it.

In 2018 we had zero injuries in our non-manufacturing operations, and that feels good. That's the way it should be – for everyone.

While we’ve also reduced injuries in manufacturing by 31% over the last two years, we know we have more to do to get to zero injuries in our factories. But we’ve seen what happens when safety performance is driven by real transparency and accountability at every level in the business – when leaders make sure it has visibility at all times, and is promoted with rigour and at pace. It’s given safety a brand – and I believe it’s recognised by employees everywhere.

To take one example: in 2018 our President for North America and Customer Development, Amanda Sourry, asked all employees to take our Motor On, Mobile Off pledge. It focuses everyone, whatever their job, on the importance of staying free from distractions when driving. Campaigns like this have helped us to achieve, and maintain, zero driving injuries since December 2015.

So we're on the right track – and we're working to keep up the momentum until Vision Zero is a reality across the business.”

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