british american tobacco p.l.c. sustainability report 2010 - Health and safety at the Heidelberg factory

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Sustainability Report 2010
South Africa

British American Tobacco South Africa’s manufacturing site at Heidelberg has recently struggled to meet its safety targets. Its Lost Workday Case Incident Rate (LWCIR) and serious accidents increased significantly in 2009 to 0.74 from 0.24 in 2008.

To address this, the company reviewed its health and safety processes and introduced new approaches including:

  • All employees, including contractors and temporary workers, completed a health and safety course and assessment, specifically tailored to the Heidelberg environment;
  • A new organisational structure was introduced for health and safety that includes clear accountability and responsibility for team leaders and managers;
  • Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) has become a standing agenda item for all departmental and leadership meetings, including regular reviews of activities and feedback on progress;
  • The factory incentive scheme, which previously covered only quality and production targets, was widened to also include EHS targets;
  • The number of EHS representatives was increased from 58 in 2009 to 95 in 2010. The number of employee fire fighters, first aiders and incident investigators was also increased; and
  • Health and safety performance was communicated to employees through plasma screens around the factory, monthly EHS newsletters and the inclusion of EHS topics in team talks.

Further training and awareness raising

Innovative approaches were also introduced to train, and raise awareness among, employees.

In late 2010, a theatrical production, the ‘Industrial Safety Theatre’, was put on for factory employees. The performances depicted safety procedures and the impact of incidents on individuals and family, as well as showing how incidents can impact on the business, for example through loss of production volumes or a factory shutdown. It is hoped that the use of theatre encouraged greater emotional engagement among the company’s employees, thus raising awareness of their workplace behaviour and responsibilities.

British American Tobacco South Africa also developed a safety laboratory workshop to address gaps in its existing health and safety training. This workshop includes practical exercises away from a classroom environment on procedures such as risk assessments. It also includes an emotive video illustrating the sometimes shocking consequences of careless behaviour. The workshop will be rolled out to the business in early 2011 and will be compulsory for all technical and production staff. A refresher course will take place every three years.

Forklift incidents

The heavy traffic of forklift trucks in and around the factory creates a high risk of incidents and is a concern for management. To address this, a forklift fleet management system (FMX) was implemented in the primary manufacturing areas, which is installed on forklifts to monitor driver behaviour and maintenance information.

It enables real-time monitoring of daily forklift inspections; speed; impacts; vehicle maintenance; productivity; overloading; and drivers’ licence validity. Using the data from FMX, British American Tobacco South Africa launched a ‘Driver of the Month’ award.

These steps have resulted in a clear improvement, with speeds decreasing and the number of incidents falling.

Independent assessment

In 2010, an independent consultant on workplace safety was brought in to assess the Heidelberg factory.

The key recommendations from the assessment were:

  • Stricter and more consistent disciplinary action should be enforced not only when injuries occur, but also for workplace behaviour non-adherence;
  • The role of EHS representatives should be extended to include coaching;
  • Scheduled walkabouts from senior management would demonstrate their commitment to EHS issues, increasing visibility and creating greater awareness among employees;
  • First and second party audits should be scheduled to ensure regular monitoring of the EHS system; and
  • Incident investigation reports and lessons learned from incidents should be shared across departments.

A plan is in place to implement these recommendations in 2011.


The company’s efforts to address the increase in incidents at Heidelberg have already produced encouraging results. Health and safety procedures are now embedded into the day-to-day activities at the site, with increased understanding of the issue at all levels. There has been a shift from a culture of management taking care of employees to everyone also looking out for each other. This is also reflected in the figures with the site’s LWCIR decreasing to 0.25 at the end of 2010.