Our safety strategy focuses on the most significant risks for people working in operational roles in our businesses.
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 daily, particularly in emerging markets.
We consider the management and control of suppliers to be a significant risk because much of the work relating to the risks identified is undertaken by our Tier 1 suppliers or Tier 2 sub-suppliers.
Road safety remains our primary safety concern and continues to be the primary cause of serious injuries and fatalities associated with Vodafone activities. This echoes the growing awareness and focus on improving road safety across the globe, including the UN Sustainable Development Goal on road safety, which aims to halve the number of road traffic deaths and injuries by 2020.
Safe driving techniques training is mandatory for anyone who drives a road vehicle while working on our behalf. However, mitigating road risk remains challenging because we have no direct ability to control external factors such as unsafe driving conditions, the lack of a safety-first culture or the actions of third parties on public roads.
We have traditionally experienced privacy challenges with employee data privacy when using telematics in company vehicles. However, with improved technology we are starting to introduce devices with improved functionality that enables the driver to identify the difference between using their vehicle for business and private use. This ensures privacy around their personal driving behaviour. These privacy improvements have seen the introduction of telematics in a number of markets, most notably Hungary and Ireland.
This year in Egypt, Vodafone Egypt created an app that uses telematics data to better identify adherence to road speed limits, identify driver fatigue and journey management violations and then send instant notifications in cases of non-compliance. This proactive approach has the potential to help reduce the number of future incidents.
Our Absolute Rules stipulate that anyone working with electrical equipment must be qualified and authorised to do so. Our training module on working with electricity provides guidance to employees on how to recognise risks and implement appropriate safety controls.
There was one fatal electrocution and one major incident involving electricity this year. The fatal electrocution occurred in Vodacom Mozambique when a contractor installing fibre on an electrical distribution line suffered an electric shock when using an aluminium ladder to free the cable caught in a tree. In addition, a major incident occurred in Vodafone Australia where two employees from a subcontractor working on a distribution panel suffered severe burns. We continue to ensure that electrical risk is a focus for all suppliers. The following actions were taken to strengthen controls:
- a Group-wide safety alert was distributed;
- continued emphasis was put on electrical risk at our global supplier forum;
- monitoring checks were conducted during market visits; and
- the electrical safety standard was revised.
In addition, we have continued to work with suppliers to ensure that:
- they have a documented risk management process for working with electricity;
- those working with electricity are certified, competent and medically fit;
- electrical equipment is fit for its intended purpose;
- appropriate safety controls such as ‘lock out-tag out’ are in place; and
- work on live electrical systems is prohibited (with the exception of extra low voltage systems, where additional controls are specified).
Mobile communications services rely on connectivity provided by antennae placed on towers, masts and rooftops. We work to ensure the training of Vodafone employees and contractors and suppliers’ employees and contractors who work at height so that they understand the risks and take steps to control them.
Our network site design principles stipulate the need for safe access for people working at height and include guidance on the control measures required to manage the risks involved effectively. Fall-arrest equipment is inspected regularly as part of each of our local businesses’ preventative maintenance programmes.
There were eight work at height major incidents during the year, six of which involved engineers falling from ladders while installing fibre cables. To mitigate the risks of working at height and safe site access, we have:
- maintained investment in fall-arrest equipment, and strengthened maintenance and recertification activities in all markets;
- assessed suppliers who provide training on working at height in India, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Romania, the Czech Republic and Hungary;
- reviewed our key global suppliers and their compliance to our working at height and safe site access procedures; and
- strengthened safe site access controls with the introduction of a new standard and guidelines.
During the year, we have also continued to work with third-party suppliers to ensure effective controls are implemented and monitored, with a specific focus on ladder work.
Expanding our fixed-line business has increased the amount of work undertaken to lay or maintain cables at street level or underground. At street level, this work is hazardous, with the risk of injury or death posed by penetrating electricity or gas lines, trenches collapsing during excavation and nearby road traffic.
Fibre-to-the-Premises and cable broadband installations require employees and contractors to work on private residential and business property as well as in the street. Doing so also poses risks such as not knowing the location of buried utilities. We are working with our local businesses to ensure that they have the necessary safety plans and controls in place to mitigate these risks.
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. In addition to our policies and Absolute Rules, we operate a consequence management system. This means we will terminate contracts if our suppliers or their sub-suppliers persistently fail to meet our standards.
Effective risk management starts at the top of any organisation, so we are clear about our safety expectations to the chief executives and senior leadership teams of our supplier businesses. We expect them to focus on the operational challenges our safety experts identify.
Four times a year, we host a Supplier Safety Forum, first established in 2016, for our major network suppliers, focusing on best practice and critical risks.