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.

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) 

Protecting the health and safety of our workforce

Providing a safe working environment for all our employees and contractors is paramount. As a global business, operating in diverse markets including some of the world’s most volatile regions, this can also be challenging.

Safety risks vary across our business. For example, our manufacturing sites, where we have operational control and can therefore better manage risks, have comparably much lower accident rates than in Trade Marketing and Distribution (TM&D), which involves the distribution and sale of our products in environments outside of our direct control.

We have around 30,000 vehicles and motorcycles on the road daily, often in environments with difficult social or economic conditions. Our goods have a high street value, and in a small number of markets this carries high risk of armed robbery and assaults. Poor road infrastructure and wide variations in driving standards and behaviour provide further challenges.

Although these challenges will always be with us, our goal is zero accidents across the Group. To help achieve this, we have a comprehensive approach based on risk management and assessment, employee training and awareness, and tailored initiatives for specific issues.

Following a significant increase in fatalities in 2017, we implemented a range of initiatives, such as ensuring drivers carry less stock, together with extra security measures for route planning and vehicle tracking. These were effective and we saw improvements in many markets that had previously experienced a rise in accidents and fatalities.

However, despite this, we regrettably have to report that the total number of fatalities within the Group overall remained at twelve, unchanged in 2018. This was partly as a result of changing local conditions, such as increased levels of violence and civil unrest in some markets, many of which had previously had an excellent health and safety performance.

The fatal incidents in 2018 were: the death of one employee and eight contractors from attacks and assaults in Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, Costa Rica and Mexico; two road traffic accident deaths involving one employee in Indonesia and another in Sri Lanka; and a contractor who died after exposure to a gas explosion in Pakistan. Sadly six members of the public also lost their lives in road traffic accidents involving BAT vehicles (2017: 11).

We deeply regret this loss of life and the suffering it has caused. Whenever a fatality occurs, we liaise with the relevant authorities to assist their investigations and conduct rigorous internal investigations to determine the cause, identify lessons, and develop an action plan, so we can do all we can to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

With operations in diverse markets and a distribution network as large as ours, we are, unfortunately, likely to encounter safety incidents, so we take every step to prevent such incidents occurring. For example, in TM&D, a comprehensive driver safety and security programme enables us to monitor, analyse and improve driver behaviour, and build a safer work culture. In high-risk locations, we constantly assess threats to ensure appropriate security protocols and escorts are in place. Through our global programmes and monitoring, as well as regional reviews and market-based initiatives, we work ceaselessly to prevent loss of life in our operations and make every effort to achieve our goal of zero accidents.

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.