Creating a safe workplace

Safety in Unilever is non-negotiable commitment.

Our approach

Safety is integral to everything we do. It is non-negotiable and we are relentless in our focus on improving safety through visible leadership, the positive behaviour of our people, the design of our plants, facilities and products, and by implementing safe systems and procedures throughout Unilever.

We are committed to a vision of Zero: Zero fatalities; Zero injuries; Zero motor vehicle incidents; Zero process incidents; Zero tolerance of unsafe behaviour and practices. This vision is designed to ensure we meet our Unilever Sustainable Living Plan commitment to reduce workplace injuries and accidents in our factories and offices.

While we achieved our USLP target in 2013, seven years ahead of schedule, in 2015 we slipped behind our target of a 50% reduction in our accident rate (our Total Recordable Frequency Rate) compared to 2008. We take this lapse very seriously and are working hard in 2016 to reinforce our Vision Zero across our business.

Achieving workplace safety isn’t our only criterion, however. We support Unilever’s growth ambition, recognising that sustainable growth is only achieved if we also grow responsibly – protecting not only our employees, but also the people and communities in which we operate. Our safety mission is: “Through authentic leadership, to build an interdependent safety culture that protects the well-being of our employees, visitors, contractors and assets, and delivers on responsible growth.”

Leadership & governance

“Our commitment to safety comes from the most senior levels in our organisation, including our CEO” explains Christian Byron, our Vice President for Safety and Engineering. “Ultimate responsibility for our safety performance rests with the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE), members of whom form the foundation of our Corporate Safety, Health and Environment Committee (CSHEC). The Chief Supply Chain Officer sits on both groups and is charged with ensuring that safety is championed as a regular part of the ULE agenda.

“Additionally, we have a global health and safety policy and mandatory standards based on the international standard OHSAS 18001, which guide our management systems, along with mandatory standards and best practice guidelines on individual aspects of health and safety. All these are made available to all Unilever locations worldwide on an intranet-based system.

We collate safety data from each of our sites to give us an overview of our performance.”

Our senior health and safety professionals meet regularly as the Unilever Group Safety and Health Leadership Team. The role of this team includes:

  • Advising our Supply Chain leadership team on areas of focus and recommending and supporting specific improvement projects.
  • Reviewing progress against targets and recommending remedial actions.
  • Following up on serious incidents and ensuring wide dissemination and adoption of the lessons learned.

We are also emphasising that line management and individuals share responsibility for safety. Safety committees at every site engage and consult with employees at all levels. Safety sub-committees report quarterly into the ULE, with in-depth discussions on specific focus areas twice a year. The Global CSHEC reinforces our governance by reviewing performance and programmes regularly, ensuring that safety gets the attention it needs to become embedded in the organisation.

Premier Safety Award

Every year, we give our Premier Safety Award to the team making the most difference to employee safety. In 2015, our winner was Germany’s Buxtehude factory, which manufactures brands such as Dove and Axe. In presenting the award, our Chief Supply Chain Officer, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, said: “This site serves as a pioneer for safety in world-class manufacturing and actively shares best practice with other sites around the world. As a result of the site’s unremitting focus on safety and the engagement of their entire team, they have achieved 1,500 days without a lost-time accident – that’s over four years.”

Buxtehude Assistant Works Director Maike Schmidt and Safety, Health & Environment Manager Wiebke Schabbel explained the efforts the team has made to develop and embed a rigorous safety culture at the site: “The best machinery and process safety practices won’t make the workplace fully safe unless employees have a true safety mindset. So you need to encourage individuals to be aware of safety in every aspect of their life – safety doesn’t stop after leaving the factory.

“The main challenge is to keep in everybody´s mind that accidents can happen any time, especially when you least expect them. That’s why you must constantly develop new ways to keep people thinking and talking about safety so they make the right choice everywhere, every time.”

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