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Health and Safety

As detailed in Our Values on page 21 of the 2019 Annual Report, one of the Company’s core values is ‘We keep people safe’, and the Company is committed to providing a safe working environment, promoting a positive health and safety (‘H&S’) culture and the achievement of the highest standards of H&S management throughout the Company.

H&S is a standing agenda item at the Company’s Board Meetings, with an associated report submitted including details on incidents, updates on procedures and actions to improve H&S performance, and any changes in legalisation and regulation that could affect the Company and its businesses. Regular presentations are additionally made to the Board by the UK Operations Director who has lead day-to-day oversight of H&S matters, members of the H&S team, and specialist third-parties.

The Company has an established Risk Committee and H&S is included as a principal risk, as detailed within the Principal Risks and Uncertainties on page 34 of the 2019 Annual Report where a summary of mitigating actions is given.

Activities and Actions

Since the establishment of a dedicated in-house H&S team in 2017, much has been achieved in the improvement of H&S across the group, including:

  • Launch of a web-based Management System to enable data and trend analysis and a standardised approach to risk assessments; 
  • Full review and updating of policies and procedures;
  • Improved employee engagement and involvement in H&S systems and processes;
  • Significant increase in compliance assessments across the group;
  • Increased levels of internal and external training programmes, including all business managers responsible for H&S completing Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (‘IOSH’) training courses;
  • Improvements to working environments, facilities and buildings; and
  • Installation of safety devices such as fall arrest on the commercial fleet and creep speed on all fork lift trucks (where applicable).

To gain a comprehensive independent assessment of its H&S practices and identification of areas for improvement, the Company commission an independent external audit during 2019 and additionally was subject to a series of external audits in connection with the objective of achieving ISO 45001 accreditation, a stated aim with the 2018 Annual Report and Accounts.

ISO 45001:2018 is the world’s first international standard for occupational health and safety (‘OH&S’) management, and the Company was delighted that in October 2019 all the Company’s UK national distribution hubs and regional distribution centres were certified as meeting the requirements of ISO 45001:2018. The ongoing ISO 45001 audits to be conducted throughout 2020 and 2021 will establish ongoing accreditation.

As a result of recommendations arising from the external audits, the Company has already implemented a number of actions to strengthen the provision of a safe working environment, and has a programme in place to make further improvements throughout 2020 including in the areas of machine guarding, increased vehicle and pedestrian separation, and further embedding H&S culture through increased employee engagement and the ‘Opportunity for Improvement’ scheme where employees ideas are actively sought to improve the working environment.

The Company continually strives to make improvements above that required by regulation, and beginning in 2020, Autonomous Emergency Braking (‘AEB’) systems will be fitted as standard to all new commercial vehicles helping to avoid accidents and reduce the severity of potential crashes.

Other actions to be undertaken during 2020 include:

  • Continuing racking safety inspections by a specialist independent company;
  • Further applications for Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (‘FORS’) accreditations which promotes best practice for commercial vehicle operators;
  • Enhancements to the Management System, including the roll-out of a training app to improve the level of employee training; and
  • Commitment to Roadwatch which is focused on reducing speeding vehicles across the UK.

There were 23 reportable incidents in 2019 (2018: 18; 2017: 25), none of which resulted in a serious or ongoing life-changing injury, and there were no prosecutions for breaches of health and safety or enforcement actions in the year.