Ensuring the safety of our employees and contractors

Why it's material

In terms of our safety first culture, we believe that nothing is so important that it cannot be done safely and that every individual has the power to have a positive impact. We do not accept that injuries and accidents are inevitable and remain committed to zero harm. We aim to achieve this through the continuance of improved personal behaviour and making safe choices underpinned by risk assessments, group sharing of all incidents and root cause investigations, enforcement of compliance and leadership engagement with our people.

Project Zero, our global initiative, aims to accelerate improved safety performance in areas of concern and to develop a safety awareness culture in all parts of our business. The initiative includes integrated health and safety planning and management; training at all levels; participative information and control structures and adherence to international best practice and safety standards.

How this issue links to other aspects of our business

Our global priority SDGs

Our top ten risks

  • 1 Safety
  • 8 Employee relations

Our strategic fundamentals

  • Grow our business
  • Drive operational excellence
  • Enhance trust

The global forces shaping our Thrive25 strategy

  • Continued erosion of trust in business, coupled with increasing social activism


We aim to provide a safe working environment in which our employees can reach their full potential.


Reviewing our safety performance in 2020


LTI   lost-time injury
NLTI   Non-lost-time injury
LTIFR   The lost-time injury frequency rate is calculated by dividing the product of lost-time injuries and a group-wide standard for exposure hours by the unit's exposure hours, i.e. LTIFR = LTI * 200,000 / unit's actual exposure hours
LTISR   In a similar manner to the frequency rate, the lost-time injury severity rating is calculated by dividing the product of the number of days lost to the injury and the group-wide standard hours by the unit's exposure hours, i.e. LTISR = Number of days lost * 200,000 / actual exposure hours
II   The Injury Index is a product of the LTIFR and the LTISR and provides an overall sense of safety within the measured unit, i.e. II = LTIFR * LTISR
AIFR   The All Injury Frequency Rate is calculated by adding (LTI + NLTI) * 200,000 / actual exposure hours
OIR   The OSHA Incidence Rate is applicable only to SNA and is arrived at by taking the number of recordable incidents * 200,000 / exposure hours. A recordable incident is any report to a medical practitioner.

Our approach

All three regions have safety programmes with the objective of creating an environment where no person will suffer permanent disability or loss of life. Our 24/7 safety focus is based on improved personal behaviour at home and at work, as well as on making safe choices underpinned by risk assessments, group sharing of all incidents and root cause investigations, enforcement of compliance and leadership engagement. Our collaborative approach means helping our people to practise safe habits at home and at work; understand how to prioritise safety, how to achieve production and other targets without compromising safety, how to be active in calling out unsafe behaviour and help their colleagues, friends and families understand safety and the implications of non-conformance.

Key developments in 2020

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, all operations and sites established the required sanitising and hygiene protocols, social distancing, temperature checks, self-declaration health check requirements with ongoing engagement and communications for the necessity of self-awareness at work and at home. One of the few positives to emerge from Covid was that the pandemic heightened adherence to safe attitudes and behaviours among our people.

Despite a concerted focus on safety, tragically, there was one transport-related fatality in the Sappi Forests contactor division in South Africa, following that we conducted a detailed root cause analysis. However, all regions showed an overall improvement in injury and severity rates.

The improvement was partially due to the fact that because of Covid-19, there were fewer individuals on site, which could have resulted in fewer LTIs. In addition to the hours worked on site, the hours worked from home were included in the LTIFR calculation. The combination of these factors may have contributed to the improvements in the LTIFR.

The 15th Global Safety Awareness Week that is normally held in June each year and involves various face-to-face engagement sessions, was impacted by the Covid pandemic. Virtual webinars and e-media was used to convey the messages to our people. The theme for this year – I Value Life – emphasised personal commitment to own and colleagues' lives.

Sappi Limited lost time injury frequency rate

The LTIFR for both own employees and contractors improved from FY19 and in both cases, was the best ever for since 2014. As discussed opposite, safety improvements were partially related to Covid-19 lockdowns and reduced staff on site. Own Injury indices for both employees showed a significant improvement year-on-year.

Sappi Limited fatalities

Performance was mainly driven by improvements on the incident rate for own employees that ended at a LTIFR of 0,59. Though above target, this is the lowest value for SEU and represents a significant improvement compared to the previous years. The combined LTIFR of 0.65 was the lowest value for the region in the present structure - in other words, since 2008.

SNA completed FY20 with a LTIFR for own employees of 0.20 (FY19: 0.25, FY18: 0.35), thereby establishing the region's best LTIFR on record for the third consecutive year.

Despite the tragic contractor fatality, at year end the LTIFR for own employees was 0.41 – a significant improvement from 0.70 in FY19; the rate for contractors also improved from 0.37 in FY19 to 0.26.

As discussed above, safety improvements were partially related to Covid-19 lockdowns and reduced staff on site.



The basic concept comes from the DuPont™ Bradley Curve™ that essentially correlates cultural maturity and number of injuries or accidents. According to the model, cultural maturity is split in four stages: reactive, dependent, independent and interdependent. The interdependent stage, which is the goal in most contexts, is really about collective responsibility, with widespread involvement, communication and accountability for each other.

Driving our safety-first culture in 2020


A key focus was the integration of mills acquired in recent years into Sappi safety culture. The reduction of the LTIs in these units from 15 in FY19 to five in FY20 highlights the effectiveness of this approach. Some of the learnings from these units were used to evaluate risks at the established sites. In order to further enhance safety behaviour and mindset, the Bradley Curve concept was rolled out to all sites for white collar workers and is in the process of being extended to blue-collar levels. The region also promoted the use of the Last Minute Risk Assessment (LMRA) that will be continued going forward.

Key achievements in 2020

  • The region achieved 3,000,000 exposure hours without an LTI
  • Last contractor LTI in February; since then 600,000 hours without a contract LTI
  • Stockstadt Mill: 1 million injury free hours (third time in four years)
  • Alfeld Mill: 1 million worked hours (second time in four years)
  • Carmignano Mill: Longest time span without a LTI since acquisition and reduction from seven to three LTIs


The region's impressive safety performance reflects the success of the entrenching personal accountability for hazard awareness, strong supervisor safety training and accountability programmes, as well as best practice sharing across the mills and in-depth training on safety basics for all employees. These included five-minute safety talks and pre-task job safety analyses and action plans for the prevention of serious injuries and fatalities.

Key achievements in 2020

  • Decline in severity rate from 1,673 lost workdays in FY11 to 37 lost workdays (a record low) in FY20. This represents a 94% reduction year-on-year
  • Zero LTIs at four out of our five manufacturing sites and the Westbrook Technology Centre


We continued to implement our Visible Felt Leadership approach that involves the visible presence of managers and supervisors on the shop floor to drive culture change and the integration of safety management with our manufacturing systems. This approach was enacted at Ngodwana Mill, but was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. We undertook a complete review of all manufacturing risk assessments to ensure all risks are identified and assessed correctly into potential severity. The findings of the survey were addressed and the completed actions as well as the effectiveness of the close out will be audited during FY21. We continued to focus on the eight lifesaving rules and will continue to focus on these going forward, together with the Stop and Think Before you Act safety programme.

Key achievements in 2020

  • Forestry Research Nurseries and Planning: 1 million injury free exposure hours
  • Lomati Mill: 1 million exposure hours worked by employees without an LTI; contractors five years without an LTI
  • Ngodwana Mill: Contractors 1 million injury free exposure hours
  • Saiccor Mill: Both employees and contractors each achieved 1 million exposure hours without an LTI, while Project Vulindlela achieved 2 million injury-free exposure hours
  • Stanger Mill: Contractors 3 million injury free exposure hours; own employees 1 year without LTI
  • Tugela Mill: employees 1 million exposure hours without an LTI
  • Zululand Forests division: 3 million exposure hours without an LTI

Promoting wellness and well-being

  • Each mill, together with the mill lead teams, decides on their priorities for the year.
  • Programmes include preventative medical healthcare check-ups, flu vaccinations and immunisations.
  • Support for employee sports and social activities, among others.

  • All salaried and hourly employees (and their spouses) who participate in one of Sappi's medical plans are encouraged to complete a health risk assessment questionnaire.
  • Wellness events, including healthy cooking demonstrations and wellness webinars, at all sites.
  • On-site flu vaccinations, employee assistance programmes in support of mental health, gym and other exercise subsidies.

  • Occupational health risks like hearing loss are mitigated by repeated hearing loss measurements and reducing or eliminating noise levels.
  • Primary healthcare: Ongoing focus on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. At some of our mills we have partnered with the provincial health services to provide chronic medication and HIV/AIDS retroviral drugs to the clinics at our mills. For more information, please go to our HIV/AIDS FAQ, available on www.sappi.com.
  • Employee well-being: Educating, empowering and upskilling our people to take ownership of their well-being. Programmes include support for obesity; substance abuse (alcohol and drugs); basic counselling for referrals to external providers; financial wellness; trauma counselling; work stress issues and other health and relationship issues.

Healthier employees are more productive, innovative and creative and have a direct, positive impact on the bottom line.

Recognised for supporting the well-being of our people at Gratkorn Mill

For the sixth year running, Gratkorn Mill was awarded the 'Gütesiegel für Betriebliche Gesundheitsförderung' (loosely translated as 'seal of approval for the promotion of workplace health') for its promotion of healthy lifestyles among staff. The recognition reflects the many ways that the mill supports its people, from offering exercise programmes through to the provision of vaccines and check-ups with the company doctor. The seal, which is the highest Austrian award for exemplary and sustainable investments in the health of employees, reflects Sappi's commitment to supporting the health, safety and well-being of our people.

Promoting the well-being of others during Covid-19

"We will forever be thankful to Sappi for assisting us with resources that we value at our school. This is not the first time Sappi has shown the spirit of Ubuntu to our school and we appreciate the effort the company puts into bettering the condition of our school and community at large."

Mrs Mhlongo
(Principal, Skeyi Primary School)

Caption: Offloading donated items at Skeyi Primary School

As Sappi is part of the community and our own staff come from our neighbouring communities; we believe it is incumbent upon us to promote the spirit of ubuntu and lead by example. Accordingly, as part of our ongoing support to neighbouring communities during the Covid-19 lockdown period, the Umkomaas forestry team visited various organisations to hand over Typek paper donations, together with hand sanitiser, cloth, surgical masks and boxes of soap.