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June 3, 2015

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Safety first: Heineken’s strategy

A bottle of Heineken premium lager beer on a white backgroundHeineken traditionally focused its safety strategy on its production sites, but with most accidents now occurring in less controlled environments, it has had to rethink its policy. Reyes Gonzalez outlines its new global safety strategy.

Keeping employees healthy and safe is a vital part of any business, and Heineken is no exception. Values and behaviours have a direct effect on every employee’s sense of engagement with the company and their work, on business performance, and on the broader community.

Heineken’s global occupational health and safety (OH&S) policy defines its responsibility and accountability to put employees first. It is of prime importance that employees are safe and go home well at the end of the day.

The main focus of Heineken’s safety activities has traditionally been the production environment. However, the majority of all accidents within the business occur outside production. That’s why it has made safety an even higher priority among senior managers, to ensure that safety is systematically embedded across Heineken.

Leaders decide what behaviours and conditions to tolerate. Within Heineken the responsibility for safety lies within the line management; the general manager of every operational company is held accountable by the regional president and the executive committee for the safety of the workforce.

A global safety strategy was presented at Heineken’s global senior leadership forum in March 2013. The strategy looked at five areas: compliance, competence, calibration, cultural and leadership, and continuous improvement. The safety strategy is determined and monitored by the Heineken safety committee, made up of senior management and functional experts from various regions as well as sales, supply chain and human resources.

This global safety strategy consists of five levers, called the 5Cs, to help general managers drive safety across the company:

  • Culture and leadership: leading by example, setting targets on safety, and driving the safe behaviours needed.
  • Competence: safety will become part of the competences, with the help of an internal health & safety academy and specific training for management and safety experts.
  • Compliance: the OH&S policy and the guidelines and standards are crucial.
  • Calibration: a new global safety database has been rolled out, making reporting much more straight forward and complete and eliminating double work for operating companies.
  • Continuous improvement: the total productive management (TPM) safety pillar will be applied consistently within Heineken.

Heineken presented its new company behaviours at its global senior leadership forum in June 2014. These behaviours provide a simple guide for everyone at Heineken that will help all employees to drive the performance of the company and make employees more successful at work. Human behaviour accounts for around 90 per cent of accidents and Heineken believes it can change its safety culture if it changes behaviours.

What Heineken does:

  • Leads by example, demonstrating safe behaviour in everything it does
  • Makes sure that all jobs and journeys are carried out safely.
  • Promotes the safe and responsible enjoyment of its beers and ciders.

What Heineken doesn’t do:

  • Ignore the chance to learn from near misses, incidents and accidents.
  • Treat safety as simply a statistic – this is about people’s lives.
Heineken employees in Mexico

Heineken employees in Mexico

Tragically, in 2014, 15 people died working for Heineken and it remains a point of ongoing attention and concern. Of the 15 deaths, eight were due to traffic accidents, one died in a dust explosion and six were the result of shootings at retail stores in Mexico owned by Heineken, where the victims included employees.

The number of fatalities in Mexico reflects the high level of crime-related violence. The Mexican-based operation is in regular contact with the relevant authorities to ensure assistance in combating the violence, and continues to take a wide range of measures to improve the security of personnel and contractors, including:

  • Security campaign for employees (prevention and self-protection) in breweries, at distribution and sales.
  • Prevention and self-protection manual.
  • Alert and response system.
  • Safe cash procedure.
  • Instructions and training on how to act in case of an assault or shooting.
  • Security visits to retail stores.
  • A dedicated internal website with manuals, videos and contact information in case of emergency.

These measures have resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in assaults over the last two years. However, it remains a challenge to prevent fatalities, as some are a direct result of drug-related crime.

Most work-related accidents and fatal accidents happen outside Heineken’s production sites, when employees are travelling to or from work or distributing the products, as these are less controlled environments. This is the reason why Heineken’s global strategy (5Cs) focuses on safety across the company, with a particular emphasis on road safety.

Some of the 2014 initiatives:

  • A global road safety campaign to raise awareness of road safety as one of the top safety issues in Heineken, to contribute to reducing the global number of road safety fatal accidents and to change unsafe driving behaviours. This campaign includes a global best practice competition on road safety, and a dedicated internal website for best practice sharing.
  • Safety leadership workshops have been set up for the operating companies’ management teams to implement safety across the operating companies, reaching more than 800 leaders in 29 companies.
  • The launch of three new safety e-learning modules (making a total of 15 modules) in the health & safety academy. The use of e-learning modules is monitored and in 2014, 69 per cent of the operating companies had achieved their safety training targets.
  • ‘Safety First’ was introduced as a measured behaviour in performance reviews.
  • Launched in 2013, the Accident Reporting and Information Software programme (ARISO) now has over 3,500 users, following efforts to ensure all accidents and incidents are reported and investigated on a timely basis. Previously, three different global systems were used for accident reporting. Operating companies can now enter data into one place, analyse it locally and use it for reporting. ARISO also provides overviews and key reports on safety globally.
  • The Compliance Assessment Programme (CAP) was launched to assess gaps in compliance with the occupational health and safety policy and provide support in developing a plan to close these gaps. Twenty operating companies were assessed in 2014 and improvement plans made, these are being followed up.
  • Heineken is official partner of the EU Agency for Health & Safety. To improve the way it does safety programmes in Heineken, it keeps a focus on external benchmarking.

This month, Heineken will host its global safety conference ‘Winning through safety’. It expects to have more than 100 attendees from all over the world, including members of the executive board, business leaders and safety practitioners.

The main focus of this year’s conference is on safety leadership; road safety; behavioural-based safety and developing safety cultures, as well as many other highlevel safety strategic topics. This global event will also have a targeted exhibition, which involves Heineken operating companies’ best practices.

A company cannot sustain profitability when compromises are made in safety. A high performing company is one in which every employee is focused on delivering a product or service in a productive, high-quality, cost-effective and safe way. Heineken is striving for a safety culture where it takes care of its people, so that they arrive safely at their job, work safely and return home safely at the end of the day. As the new company behaviours clearly state: Heineken puts safety first.

Reyes Gonzalez will present Our strategy to win – one safety for Heineken at the IOSH conference at 16.45 in track C: Managing global risk on Tuesday, 16 June.

Reyes Gonzalez is global safety manager at Heineken International

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