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We take safety extremely seriously in our operations and aim to promote our approach across our industry by having leading safety standards, and by insisting on high safety practices from our employees and our suppliers and engaging with customers and peers.

Our commitment to safety does not differentiate between our own employees, our contractors or our suppliers’ employees and contractors; all of whom benefit from the same focus on preventing harm, both on our worksites and when working or moving between sites. We want everyone working with Vodafone to return home safely every day. Any injury is one too many; any loss of life related to our operations is unacceptable.

Our Absolute Rules on safety

The Vodafone Absolute Rules on safety focus on risks that present the greatest potential for harm for anyone working for or on behalf of Vodafone. The Absolute Rules are clear and unambiguous and are underpinned by a zero-tolerance approach to unsafe behaviours in all of our businesses.

Vodafone employees and contractors, and our suppliers’ employees and contractors, must:

  • always wear seatbelts when travelling in or operating vehicles;
  • always use suitable personal protective equipment, a safety harness and fall protection when working at height;
  • never carry out electrical work on electrical equipment, circuits and gear if they are not qualified;
  • never work under the influence of substances (alcohol or drugs) that are illegal or in excess of legal levels or where this impairs the individual’s ability to perform tasks;
  • never exceed speed limits or travel at speeds that are dangerous for the type of vehicle or conditions;
  • never use a hand-held phone while driving and only make calls by pulling over or using hands-free devices when it is safe to do so; and
  • never undertake any street or underground work activities unless competent to do so.
A woman holding a robotic arm

Our Code of Conduct emphasises the need for full compliance with the systems and processes designed to keep everyone who works for us safe at all times. Every Vodafone employee or contractor and every supplier employee and contractor, must:

  • abide by the Absolute Rules at all times;
  • intervene if they see someone behaving in an unsafe manner;
  • consider how their decisions and actions will affect the health and safety of others; and
  • never compromise health and safety.

Managing key safety risks

Our safety strategy focuses on the most significant risks for people working in operational roles in our businesses.

Road risk when driving for work

This risk is particularly significant in emerging markets. Training in safe driving techniques is mandatory for anyone who drives a road vehicle while working on our behalf.

Working with electricity

Our Absolute Rules stipulate that anyone working with electrical equipment must be qualified and authorised to do so. Our working with electricity training module provides guidance to employees on how to recognise risks and implement appropriate safety controls.

Working at height

Mobile communications services rely on connectivity provided by antennae placed on towers, masts and rooftops. We seek to ensure that Vodafone employees, contractors, and suppliers’ employees and contractors, who work at height, are trained to understand and control the risks involved.

Laying cables in the ground

Expanding our fixed-line business has increased the amount of work undertaken to lay or maintain cables at street level or underground. At a street level this work is inherently hazardous, with the risk of injury or death posed by penetrating electricity or gas lines, trenches collapsing during excavation and by nearby road traffic.

The management and control of suppliers

Suppliers’ employees and contractors working on masts, towers and other equipment undertake most of the highest risk activities related to the deployment and maintenance of our networks. As a result, we seek to work with a smaller group of our Tier 1 and 2 suppliers for any high-risk activities.

A man with a high visibility jacket and hard helmet

Historically, these risks have accounted for the majority of serious incidents and fatalities that have occurred in Vodafone and in our supply chain. This reflects the general trend across the global telecommunications industry. Traffic-related incidents remain the greatest threat of harm on a daily basis, particularly in emerging markets.

We require everyone who works for us to understand the safety risks inherent in their role and know exactly what they must do, and not do, to identify and mitigate those risks and to protect themselves, their colleagues and the wider public.

Implementing a safe driving programme in India

In India, drivers historically worked for Vodafone on an ‘on call’ basis, possibly making just one journey. This made it difficult to ensure they understood and complied with our road safety guidelines. To address this issue, we recognised the need to create a common pool of Vodafone-trained drivers and Vodafone-maintained vehicles.

Promoting motorcycle safety in India

In India, traffic accidents on busy roads are commonplace. Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than car drivers during an accident, particularly in a country where very few riders wear helmets.

Safe driving behaviour

In Africa, where speeding is a major cause of road accidents, we are using Vodafone technology to reinforce the need for safe driving to anyone who drives on our behalf.

Improving safety together with non-technology suppliers

During the year, we completed two high-profile projects in South Africa, which both involved working at height. Our non-technology suppliers can often lag behind on health and safety standards, so we implemented a series of supplier skills programmes, including approved training on working at height. Appointing a dedicated health and safety officer for each supplier throughout the project made a positive difference; the officers delivered training, site inspections and daily safety assessments.

Developing minimum training standards for suppliers

In Portugal, the Vodafone Health and Safety Team has been working with other telecoms organisations to establish minimum supplier training standards for working at height. This collaborative approach and the success of the project in raising safety standards has been recognised by Agência Nacional para a Qualificação e o Ensino Profissional (ANQEP) – the national agency for qualifications and professional learning – resulting in our training requirements being adopted as national minimum standards.

Our safety performance and compliance

Rules are only effective if people follow them. We work hard to ensure everyone who works with us understands and complies with our Absolute Rules. Monitoring and reporting on our safety performance is essential to ensure the safety of everyone working with us – our employees, our contractors and suppliers, and their own employees and contractors. It also helps us to focus on and address risks that are inherent to our industry.

It is with great regret that we report nine recordable fatalities1 this year. We provide the context for those deaths, along with our performance across other safety metrics in the Safety section of the Sustainable Business Report 2018.

EmployeesSuppliers’ employees/contractorsMembers of the public20160281012144620172018
 201620172018 1
Suppliers’ employees / contractors8106
Members of the public313
  • A fatal incident in Italy on 29 March 2018 is currently under investigation by national authorities. We are unable to gain access to the authorities’ findings or include in our reporting until this investigation is complete.
Vehicle accidentElectrocutionWorking at heightFalling objectCriminal activity20160281012144620172018
Vehicle accident11104
Working at height000
Falling object001
Criminal activity001

* Vodacom markets include South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania.


  1. We report all fatal incidents related to our operations when – after investigation and review – we conclude that our controls were not operating as effectively as required (we also consider circumstances where if our controls could have reasonably been enhanced the outcome could have been different) and may have prevented the incident from occurring.