Health and safety

A dedication to employee wellbeing

We are committed to providing a safe working environment for all our employees and contractors and have a Group goal of zero accidents. Our work to protect and maintain employees’ occupational health is part of our commitment to employees’ physical, mental and social wellbeing.

We have a Group Health & Safety Policy that aims to apply the best international standards of practice relating to the health and safety of employees at work and non-company personnel on company premises and to give a high priority to these activities.

The Policy applies across all our activities. It requires our companies – as well as complying with all applicable laws and regulations – to commit to the prevention of employee injury and ill-health and strive for continual improvement in our health and safety management and performance. This is done through setting clear objectives, including the monitoring and measurement of key performance indicators.

Health and Safety Policy Statement (31 kb) 

The Policy is backed by detailed specific requirements for all our sites as part of our Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) management system. Our EHS system has been in place for many years and is based on international standards.

In 2016, 17 locations across all regions were certified to the OHSAS 18001 international occupational health and safety standard.

Protecting the health and safety of our workforce

We are committed to a safe working environment for all our employees and contractors worldwide and have a Group-wide goal of zero accidents.

We focus on risk management and assessments, employee training and awareness, and specific initiatives for high-risk areas of our business.

We have well-established health and safety procedures in our manufacturing sites, and accidents in this area are comparably lower than those in Trade Marketing and Distribution (TM&D). With over 29,800 vehicles and motorcycles out on the road every day, TM&D is an area where the vast majority of accidents occur. Many of these are in challenging parts of the world with high levels of road traffic accidents and armed robberies.

Our driver safety and security programme continues to focus on addressing these risks, such as through the use of in-vehicle ‘telematics’ monitoring systems to analyse driver behaviour data, insights from which are used to tailor our training programmes to improve driving skills and hazard perception. Since 2014, all our vehicles are required to meet strict safety specifications, and we also continually assess threat levels to enhance security protocols and escorts in high-risk locations.

In 2017, accidents across the Group increased from 182 in 2016, up to 217. Sadly, this included an increase in fatalities, with the death of a contracting electrician in our factory in Bangladesh from contact with electricity; two TM&D contractors who died in road traffic accidents in Brazil; and one TM&D employee and eight TM&D security contractors who died in violent attacks in Brazil and South Africa. Eleven members of the public also lost their lives in  road traffic accidents involving BAT vehicles in eight countries.

We deeply regret this loss of life and the suffering caused to friends, family and colleagues. We liaise closely with the relevant authorities and conduct our own detailed investigations to determine the root cause of each accident, identify any lessons that can be learned and implement action plans, the outcomes of which are reviewed at Board level.

For example, following the road traffic accidents, we reviewed telematics data to help identify the circumstances and cause of the accidents, as well as to refresh and reinforce our driver training programmes, and improve our route planning.

We immediately established comprehensive reviews and action plans in response in response to the violent attacks in Brazil and South Africa. One issue identified was the high visibility of the security escorts, which drew a lot more attention, so we revised our approach. We also reduced the amount of stock the reps carry and implemented extra security to our route planning and vehicle tracking systems

Full details of our safety performance can be viewed in our sustainability performance centre .

Occupational health

We aim to be among the leaders in occupational health management. We focus on identifying hazards, assessing risks to people’s health at work and introducing appropriate controls. We also have programmes around the world that protect and promote health and wellbeing for employees, their families and local communities. These include medical services and insurance, healthy lifestyle and fitness schemes and family-friendly policies and initiatives, such as flexible working and help with childcare.

While we do not directly employ tobacco farmers or farm workers, tobacco growing is a significant part of our supply chain for which green tobacco sickness (GTS) is a risk. GTS is a type of nicotine poisoning caused when nicotine is absorbed through the skin from wet tobacco leaves. It’s a real risk to farmers and their workers if they harvest tobacco when it’s wet.

Raising awareness of GTS is a major priority for us and we’ve been working with farmers to explain some of the ways they can reduce the risk of developing GTS, such as only handling dry leaves. We also encourage more farmers to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) available to their workers. PPE includes gloves, trousers and clothes made from impermeable cloth. In addition, we’re also helping farmers to recognise the symptoms of GTS and how to treat it.