Health and safety

Ensuring the safety of everyone involved in our operations is a core value of our business and we continue to drive a culture where safety is an integral part of every business decision

Health and safety – Our approach

Ensuring the safety of everyone involved in our operations is a core value for Vodafone. We believe all accidents and injuries are preventable, and we are driving a culture where safety is an integral part of every business decision across the Group.

Loss of life or injury related to our operations is unacceptable. Our strategy is designed to tackle the root causes of major incidents and to create a mature safety culture across the Group. We are working hard to ensure employees and contractors know how to identify and manage risks, and take personal responsibility for their own safety and the safety of those around them. This vigilance is essential to our vision not just of eliminating major incidents, but preventing any incidents that could affect the health and safety of our people.

We have already achieved improvements and continue to push ourselves with challenging objectives. Our suppliers consistently tell us that Vodafone’s expectations exceed those of other operators, and we believe we have an opportunity to lead our industry on health and safety. We are determined to be admired for our approach and our performance on health and safety.

Read on to find out more about our approach to this issue or go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Managing key risks

Our focus is on reducing the impact of our top five risks across all operations: occupational road risk, working with electricity, working at height, control of contractors and legacy infrastructure. We ask each of our markets, our supply chain teams, and our group technology teams to clearly demonstrate what they are doing to reduce or eliminate these risks.

We have a wide range of programmes and systems to tackle each of these key risks, often tailored to the particular needs of each market (see Performance for some examples). By concentrating on these key risks and understanding the risk profile of our business, we are tackling the safety issues that are most likely to arise in our day-to-day operations.

In focus: Absolute Rules

Our Absolute Rules on safety focus on high risk activities and zero tolerance of unsafe behaviours.

  • Always wear seat belts 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 you 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

Occupational road risk

Road traffic accidents involving employees, contractors or members of the public account for a high proportion of our major incidents in emerging markets. These usually occur on public roads as a result of poor driving conditions and unsafe driving behaviour. Rates of road traffic injuries in low- and middle-income countries are twice those in high-income countries and 80% of road traffic deaths occur in middle-income countries1.

Although reducing risk related to driving on public roads is challenging, we can help to minimise the severity and likelihood of accidents by raising awareness, training and reinforcing our strict rules on driving. Our road risk programmes include driver training for the most-at-risk employees and we aim to improve safety by addressing driving behaviour among employees, contractors and the wider community.

We discipline employees who fail to comply with our Absolute Rules (see feature box above) and we use GPS vehicle tracking systems to monitor and therefore deter speeding violations, which are an internationally recognised major cause of accidents.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Working with electricity

The risk of injury from electric shock is a major concern for those deploying or maintaining our network equipment, and ensuring only qualified people work on electrical equipment is one of our Absolute Rules.

We work with contractors to make sure they have a documented risk management process for working with electricity, that those working on electrical equipment are authorised, competent and medically fit, that electrical equipment is fit for its intended purpose, and that appropriate safety devices are in place before work starts.

We also provide an e-learning module for employees working with electricity that ensures they have a basic awareness of how to detect and manage electrical hazards, as well as instruction on how to deal with incidents should they arise.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Working at height

The danger of falling when working at height is a particular risk for employees and contractors working on rooftops, towers and masts. Our priority is to make sure that anyone operating at height is trained on the risks involved, follows agreed procedures and always uses the appropriate safety equipment.

Our network site design principles include criteria to make sure all sites are designed with safe access in mind and our policy standard on working at height includes guidance on how to implement control requirements. We also have an ongoing programme to replace ladder cages with fall-arrest systems to reduce incidents related to working at height.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Managing our contractors

We require all our suppliers and contractors to meet strict health and safety requirements, and we monitor their performance through our supplier management programme (see Responsible supply chain).

Our procurement team works closely with key contractors to help them improve safety management in their own teams and among sub-contractors. We hold workshops for key network suppliers to promote collaboration and raise standards across the industry. A particular focus is on working with suppliers to ensure their design specifications for network infrastructure meet our requirements and minimise health and safety risks.

Examples of the ways we aim to improve safety management among our suppliers include:

  • A safety passport system for high risk projects, which has been introduced for one major supplier. This system only allows subcontractors on site if they have documentation showing they have completed appropriate health and safety training before starting work.
  • Our health & safety contractors team website in Greece which provides information for contractors and sub-contractors on health and safety including the Absolute Rules, Safety Passports and Safety Alerts to help them train their employees.
  • Our ONESAFETY database in Italy, which provides information on key risks and environmental characteristics of network sites to registered contractors and professionals. The database enables communication between field technicians and our Network Monitoring Centre so users can raise potential problems and update site risk information.

In focus: Red card for safety

Our consequence management system for suppliers who do not meet our health and safety requirements makes it clear that failing to demonstrate robust safety management is linked to the termination of purchase orders and contracts. Suppliers receive a warning for any high-potential or near-miss incident. Incidents that could have been prevented or those that lead to injury or fatality may result in the termination of our contract with the supplier or in the supplier being excluded from bidding for new work with us for a probationary period. To work with us in future, the supplier must repeat our full qualification process.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Legacy infrastructure

Through the acquisition of other companies, particularly in emerging markets, we have inherited some infrastructure that does not meet our safety standards. In addition, some of our own infrastructure was built prior to the introduction of our safety standard on design.

We therefore carry out improvement programmes and checks to masts, towers and other equipment, modifying or replacing it where necessary. Technology Directors in each market have annual targets to upgrade and replace infrastructure, and are audited to make sure they fulfil these targets.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Reporting and investigating incidents

On a quarterly basis we monitor and audit our local markets against our Group safety strategy and objectives, and each market reports health and safety incidents through our global online reporting system. All major or high-potential incidents must be reported within 48 hours to the Group Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing and a full investigation is undertaken into the causes. Local market CEOs are required to oversee these investigations personally and to ensure corrective actions are implemented.

We share these findings across the Group to prevent similar incidents happening elsewhere. Safety Alerts notify our employees, local markets and relevant suppliers of any incidents or near misses that might have implications for other parts of the business. We also share lessons on good practice that we believe should be emulated.

Go to Performance to read about our progress in 2013/14.

Health and safety management

Our Group Health, safety and wellbeing team, which reports to the Group Human Resources Director, oversees health and safety management across Vodafone. The team works closely with key Group functions and local market representatives, who share best practice through a health, safety and wellbeing network. For more on wellbeing, see Our people.

Senior leaders across the Group conduct safety tours to raise awareness, personally assess health and safety standards and make recommendations for improvement. We hold leadership workshops for executives and senior managers to reinforce leadership behaviours that contribute to a strong health and safety culture.

Our Group Health and Safety Policy and accompanying suite of standards on specific risks sets out our expectations across our markets with clear guidance on risk assessment, incident reporting and management of key risks. We have strong management systems in place to ensure compliance in all our markets, and managers across the Group receive health and safety training appropriate to their role.

Management systems in our local markets are aligned with internationally recognised standards and our operations in Greece, Italy, South Africa and the UK are accredited to OHSAS 18001. Employees are trained to ensure management systems are used effectively. A maturity matrix tailored to our business helps us consistently assess the maturity of how we manage health and safety across the Group, and set targets to improve our safety culture.

Our approach to health and safety management operates on a cycle of four key elements: plan, do, check and act (see graphic).


  • Set expectations – standards, behaviours, governance
  • Develop plans based on high-risk areas and in line with Group Health, Safety and Wellbeing strategy
  • Global programmes to ensure alignment with standards


  • Implement standards in conjunction with Supply Chain Management, Technology, Human Resources and Internal Communications teams
  • Apply Absolute Rules on safety
  • Implement plans and programmes
  • Recognise, evaluate and control risks
  • Increase organisational safety competence
  • Visible leadership – Senior Management Tours
  • Effective employee engagement
  • Safe place of work


  • Ensuring markets have monitoring and inspection programmes
  • Frequent reporting on leading and lagging indicators
  • Global assurance programme to validate and verify compliance with standards, implementation of plans and tracking of remedial actions
  • Testing implementation of controls
  • Auditing of local market management systems


  • Robust governance
  • Executive-led investigations into major incidents
  • Sharing and learning by communicating key findings of incidents across the Group
  • Review risk profiles as maturity develops
  • Analysis of incidents highlights areas for strategic focus, training and partnerships
  • Output from ‘check’ stage used for analysis


  1. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013, World Health Organization