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Making our safety vision a reality

We’ll achieve Vision Zero when no one is harmed in the course of Unilever business. To get there, we assess the risks attached to all our activities and develop programmes to tackle them. In 2017 we continued our focus on safe travel in vehicles, behavioural safety, machinery safety, process safety, and construction and contractor safety.

Life at Unilever

Making the roads safer, for us and for others

Our business couldn't succeed without people driving on our behalf – and sharing the roads with the people around us. 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.

Safe Travel in Vehicles

We put our Safe Travel in Vehicles Standard into action with the help of our new Safe Travel Roadmap, introduced in 2016 to give drivers step-by-step guidance. The Roadmap also enables local managers to design robust programmes tailored to the risks and conditions on the roads their employees are using. Our approach reflects the reality that road safety standards and other conditions vary from market to market.

Alongside policies and standards, technology plays an important role 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.

Our innovative Safe Travel Module is a practical, hands-on tool to help people get home safely at the end of each day.

For example, in a number of countries, it’s our established practice that drivers check information about the route they're planning to take and then make a risk assessment. The result might be that they take a different route – one that might be longer, but is safer because of traffic or road conditions. In some countries, our risk assessments might lead to wider travel rules – like no night-driving which we apply in Africa where the roads are particularly dangerous in the dark.

Zakhar Boyarintsev, Group Safety Manager

These efforts are starting to pay off: in 2017 we saw a 50% reduction in road-related collisions resulting in employee injuries – from 26 to 13 accidents. But there’s still more to do to reach our vision of zero accidents.

We understand that violations of the 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.

Safer behaviour, safer people

Guidelines and policies on their own do not achieve a safe working environment. People's safety depends to a large degree on how they, and the people around them, behave. That's why one of our biggest areas of focus is on behaviour-based safety (BBS) which is part of our World Class Manufacturing Programme (WCM).

WCM is the continuous improvement system we use in our manufacturing sites. It’s implemented through a structured, step-by-step approach that drives extensive involvement by our employees and a set of rigorous behaviours. WCM’s safety pillar is built on behaviour-based safety principles. We’ve made sure these are well-defined and articulated as they’re the non-negotiable foundations of the way we work. Using these company-wide foundations, sites develop tailored plans that drive continuous improvement at each site.

By taking this approach, we can create a solid and consolidated safety culture across all levels of our organisation. As a result, a fifth of our ‘mature’ (most advanced) sites have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in accidents of over 40% (measured as Total Recordable Accident Frequency over 2013–2017).

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 good choices when it comes to the safety of ourselves and others. That’s whether people work in a factory, an office or elsewhere. Our Make the Right Choice communications campaign underlined this message in 2017 with a renewed emphasis on the importance of individual decision-making.

Office = safe. Factory = hazardous. Right? Wrong!

Muhtesem Edis, SHE and Security Director based in Turkey

Muhtesem Edis, our SHE and Security Director based in Turkey, describes how our Make the Right Choice campaign is making our workplaces safer.

“Most people assume that safety is an issue just for our factories. That's just not the case!

Slip, trip and fall (STF) incidents can happen anywhere – and they’re potentially very serious. In the worst case, a slip can result in life-changing injuries, and sadly sprains and strains, bruises and concussions, fractures and dislocations are all too common. Far from being exclusively a 'factory' problem, just over a quarter of the STFs in our business happen on non-manufacturing sites, which include offices, R&D and distribution sites. Between 2014 and 2016, the number of STFs in our business grew, peaking at 247 in 2016 – so we knew it was an area that needed urgent improvement.

Often inattention or distraction is the reason for these accidents – rushing or carrying too many items so we don't hold the handrail when using the stairs. Broken items can be replaced, but our people can't.

Our Make the Right Choice campaign brings home to people the importance of good decisions in every working environment, with the result that we saw a steady reduction of incidents in 2017.”

Encouraging progress on process safety incidents

Worker icon

Reduction in process safety incidents in 2017 v 2016

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.

We drove our 2017 process safety improvement through three main routes:

  • We improved our people's qualifications through the launch of our Process Safety Competent Operator / Leader programme, making them part of people’s career development.
  • Our Global Process Safety Team assessed and classified all Unilever manufacturing sites so we can develop our risk-based approach and target our audits.
  • We continued to work with partner firms in the Safety to Win programme, launched in 2016.

What is ‘process safety’ – and why does it matter?

Jonathan Jett-Parmer, Global Engineering Director for process safety

Jonathan Jett-Parmer, our Global Engineering Director for process safety explains.

“Put simply, process safety means hardwiring safety into every aspect of our production processes. It involves looking at every detail of production – how we design, build, operate and maintain our manufacturing sites – with safety in mind, and building a disciplined framework that delivers safe processes.

It matters, because good process safety saves lives and prevents injuries. It helps prevent and control the most serious incidents – ones that could cause toxic effects, fires or explosions, for example. Our process safety work focuses on what we call Major Accident Event Prevention – a term that speaks for itself.

What drives process safety people like my colleagues and me is the difference safety makes to people's lives – but there are wider benefits too. When you have effective process safety, it leads to improved site reliability and higher community confidence. Employee morale is higher too, which can boost retention and help attract the best talent. A safe business is also often less expensive to underwrite, often over-delivers on results, and can earn the trust of customers, consumers and suppliers – all essential elements of business growth.”

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. In 2017 we focused on specific high-risk activities and launched our new Work at Heights training across our business.

In 2014 we began collecting data specifically related to contractor safety. Contractors’ recordable injuries (measured by Lost-Time Injuries Frequency Rate, LTIFR) have progressively reduced since then. This is due to better application of our standards, higher levels of engagement from our leaders and enhanced training of project leaders and safety professionals. In 2017 we saw a 42% reduction compared to 2014. See Monitoring our safety performance for details.

Machinery safety

Worker icon

Reduction in ‘hand in machine’ incidents in 2017 v 2016

We continue to work on improving the safety of people who work with machines. A particular focus has been reducing injuries caused when people’s hands get caught in machines. While these injuries have fallen, they still remain one of our most common factory injuries so we’re working hard to assess all the risks related to our equipment and to ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place.

We have developed tools that involve employees in identifying hazards and assessing their risks – this makes safety more personal and builds greater individual accountability for it. We’ve also completed our worldwide machinery safety training and are working with vendors and industry experts to assess existing machinery safety risks and identify improvements.

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.

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