Occupational health and safety

SFS was once again able to reduce the number of work-related accidents further during the year under review, and has now come closer to its medium-term goal of cutting the number of work-related accidents in half by 2025 compared to 2019.


GRI 103-1 Explanation of the material topic and its boundary
The company’s employees are pivotal to the success of SFS Group. With that in mind, creating a safe, healthy work environment for all employees is one of SFS’ key concerns. This holds particularly true at our production sites, where the processes and workflows result in risks to employees’ health and safety – in part due to high material throughputs – and suitable steps must be taken to minimize these risks. As a result, these sites and/or the production group are central to evaluations and improvements in the area of occupational health and safety.

The information provided below by SFS Group on the topic of occupational health and safety relate to the 8,956 employees (full-time equivalent (FTE), 2019: 9,047) of SFS Group at the end of the period under review. This corresponds to about 84% (2019: 86%) of the entire workforce of SFS, the majority of which work in a production environment. The goal is for this assessment to cover more than 95% of all employees by 2025. Other relevant data, including a differentiation between temporary staff (employees whose work/workplaces are controlled by the organization but who are not on SFS’ payroll) and work-related absences with serious consequences, will be collected for the assessment for the first time in 2021. FTE is an indicator that currently also includes temporary staff; the same safety requirements, rights and obligations apply to them as to employees of SFS Group.

GRI 103-2 The management approach and its components
Since a safe working environment and employee health and well being are pivotal factors in the success of SFS Group, occupational health and safety is an integral part of the company’s corporate culture. “Partnership”, “commitment”, “community”, “success” and “change” are the values entrenched in our mission statement and which are the foundation of our daily activities; with these values, SFS strives to be a leader in terms of occupational health and safety.

The goal of the management approach embraced in the area of occupational health and safety is to reduce or eliminate negative consequences through these measures:

  • SFS protects the life and health of all employees by ensuring that working conditions comply with health and safety standards.
  • The company develops appropriate safety measures by regularly identifying and assessing hazards, workloads and risks.
  • Preventive measures and programs, such as preparing and introducing the “10 SFS Safety Rules”, help prevent accidents.
  • The company engages in ongoing dialog with its stakeholders in order to continue to make improvements to its occupational health and safety.
  • SFS encourages employees to take responsibility for their own health. By identifying the hazards and assessing the risks of their work environment, employees can adapt appropriately and prevent potential accidents.
  • Employees are required to report to their supervisors any conditions that might jeopardize employee health and safety at work. They also have the opportunity to suggest improvements and point out any deficiencies (opportunity to lodge a complaint).
  • In that context, employees are also instructed and required to interrupt their work in the event of a potential risk and/or hazard and to resume their work only when the situation permits (e.g. hazard/deficiency has been eliminated or resolved). This approach is communicated on a regular basis during training on the “10 SFS Safety Rules”.
  • All employees are urged to report ideas and problems immediately. Various communication channels and platforms are available for that purpose, including the CIP Idea Box, team meetings, shopfloor meetings and performance reviews. The launch of the new mySFS app marks the addition of another channel of communication that will enable employees to contact their supervisor or departmental manager directly and address their concerns. SFS has integrated a compliance system that is available to all members of staff. If an employee reports a violation, the reporting employee will not experience any disadvantages as a result.

SFS has set itself the goal of reducing work-related accidents by 50%, compared to 2019, by 2025, which will help the company to come closer to its long-term objective of zero work-related accidents. To reach this goal, the ISO 45001 standard will continue to be rolled out at all locations of SFS Group and certified where appropriate.

Although the degree of coverage of ISO certification still varies, the goal is to include all production sites* by 2025. A roadmap has been defined to reach this goal. At present, 12 of the 34 locations are ISO 45001-certified.

Division Automotive Electronics Industrial Medical Construction Riveting
SFS Scope* 13 2 5 4 6 4
Certified 8 2 2 0 1 0
In planning stage 5 0 3 4 5 4
100% planned by 2023 2022 2023 2023 2025

*SFS scope: Production sites where SFS has a stake of ≥50% and employs more than 50 people. The Distribution & Logistics division is not listed for certification, since it does not constitute a significant production site (also see GRI 102-45).

Target achievement and verification will initially be decentralized for each individual location. This is the responsibility of both the location manager, who is in charge of local working conditions, and the EHS manager, who is in charge of the environment and occupational health and safety.

EHS managers at locational, divisional and SFS Group levels communicate on a regular basis and enter their data on a central collaboration platform. They plan and implement any (corrective) measures and ensure the best possible target achievement for SFS Group, thus ensuring that employees are protected. Discussions on progress made and discrepancies are conducted during regular steering meetings with the management and at meetings of the Executive Board.

GRI 103-3 Evaluation of the management approach
The current management approach appears effective and thus suitable. The number of accidents is falling steadily and absences due to accident or illness are becoming increasingly rare. A positive trend is observed in particular at sites with ISO 45001 certification, thus there is a push to continuously expand this to further sites. Employee satisfaction has remained at a high level for years, a fact evidenced by the Group’s excellent rankings in the Swiss Employer Award. A low error rate coupled with high productivity underscores the fact that high standards in the area of occupational health and safety are compatible with effective, efficient processes.

Hazard assessments are prepared by knowledgeable persons who are also able to consult an external advisor if needed. The resulting documents are revised on a regular basis when new equipment, machines or materials are introduced, whenever workflows are changed that could give rise to new hazards, or on the basis of new insights gained as the result of an accident or near miss.

Incidents and hazardous situations are reported for all locations in accordance with the local procedures provided in the respective management system. The Group-wide reporting process is based on the NACA Index (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics). The general objective of this index is to improve the reporting culture throughout SFS Group, including reporting by employees of third-party companies. The system is currently adequate and will be reevaluated in 2021.

All incidents, including near misses, are investigated. The goal is to identify the underlying causes and take appropriate corrective measures to prevent similar incidents. For SFS, it is important that the accident investigation is not an exercise in assigning blame, but instead identifies deficiencies in the safety process. Since near misses are not yet documented systematically throughout SFS Group, a review of and change to the reporting system is planned in 2021.

Since the current year under review was dominated primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic, utmost priority was attached to protecting the health of all employees. All necessary protective measures were systematically implemented and work at all locations was able to continue in accordance with the applicable contingency plans and in compliance with the regulations issued by the local authorities. Apart from the standard hygiene regulations, additional steps were taken wherever necessary, including the strict separation of teams, working from home and the mandatory use of protective masks. Physical events were canceled or replaced by online meetings. Systematic implementation of these measures enabled the Group to offer its employees health and safety protection at a high level and also ensure the continuation of its business activities.


GRI 403-1 Occupational health and safety management system
SFS works with a Group-wide business management system (BMS) that meets the current requirements of the ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001 standards and applies to all SFS locations and all employees. The sites implement their local management systems based on the BMS systems and local regulatory and statutory requirements. Newly acquired companies are integrated into the BMS system within the scope of the integration approach.

The BMS system is managed by the Corporate Quality and EHS function and implemented in the regional and national organizations by a network of EHS specialists. Communication and the exchange of information takes place via a peer-group approach.

Both the BMS system and the local management systems are audited by external parties within the scope of our ongoing ISO certifications. Internal audits and regular reviews of EHS performance support the continuous improvement of the management system and its implementation.

GRI 403-2 Hazard identification, risk assessment, and incident investigation
SFS works on the principle that hazard identification forms the basis for safe working. All locations are obliged to assess hazards on a regular basis, analyze risks within their sphere of influence and workflows, and define corrective and mitigation measures. One of the instruments used in performance of regular assessments is the daily shopfloor meeting, which has been introduced at all sites; the first agenda item discussed at this meeting is the topic of safety. Risk analysis is reviewed if new information is available on matters such as new legal requirements, changes to systems, equipment or raw materials, and incidents, accidents and near misses.

SFS introduced “10 Safety Rules” in 2019 with the goal of improving the awareness of risks related to employee health and safety. Implementation of the “10 Safety Rules” will be completed by the end of 2021. They apply at all locations and to all employees. In this context, all employees are urged to interrupt their work if they consider it unsafe.

All employees are responsible for ensuring that all accidents, incidents and near misses are reported immediately to their supervisor, in order to ensure that these can be investigated and corrective steps taken in a timely manner.

Every location performs active risk management and is prepared for potential incidents. The location’s senior management designates a crisis committee and maintains contingency plans as required.

Potential incidents include:

  • Danger and harm to people and the environment (accident, fire, flooding, storm, earthquake, epidemic/pandemic, etc.)
  • Business interruption (employee unavailability or absence, energy, procured components, manufacturing resources, etc.)
  • Intervention by unauthorized persons (unauthorized access, vandalism, sabotage, espionage, cyber attacks, etc.)
  • Customer complaints (product liability and warranty cases, etc.)

The objective of risk management and contingency plans is to ensure that customer requirements can be met as smoothly and promptly as possible, even during disruptive events as listed above.

GRI 403-3 Occupational health services
SFS safeguards access to qualified occupational health services through the application of country-specific approaches that comply with the local statutory requirements, and offers these services in the country’s official language. Employees receive information on the occupational health services available during induction and training. The services are offered during normal working hours. Employee right to data protection and privacy is respected and observed. Employee use of or participation in such services and programs, or the health data collected as a result, is not used as a decision-making criterion for employee development (termination, promotion, etc.).

GRI 403-4 Worker participation, consultation and communication on occupational health and safety
Matters relating to occupational health and safety suggested by employees are discussed at location level in meetings of the specialist committee on accidents and safety. These meetings are held at regular intervals, either on a monthly or quarterly basis depending on the location.

Furthermore, the topic of occupational health and safety is discussed on a regular basis in many other channels, platforms, etc. including team meetings, shopfloor meetings, quarterly reports, information screens, employee magazines, the employee app, one-on-one discussions and employee surveys.

GRI 403-5 Worker training on occupational health and safety
All new employees are welcomed at an induction day (SFS Welcome Day, etc.) where they are given information on topics including the systems available to them (on-site training, online training, e-learning platform), health and safety, and their rights and obligations. These training sessions are conducted at regular intervals by qualified safety specialists or subject matter experts. As a part of their basic training, new employees learn about the “10 SFS Safety Rules” (the detailed version), how to use personal protective equipment and are given specialist instruction on lifting platforms, forklifts, hazardous substances and more. The contents of the “10 SFS Safety Rules” are now also regularly communicated to employees as part of e-learning sessions.

The courses are conducted in small groups to ensure that all employees can contribute appropriately. These courses aim to ensure that employees understand in theory and can apply in practice the course content and use of tools in examples on-site.

The diverse range of courses offered during working hours is individually adapted to the content and intended participants, is documented and is available to all employees (even to those not directly employed).

GRI 403-6 Promotion of worker health
SFS promotes worker health through a wide range of drives, initiatives and campaigns. Some of those in Switzerland include:

  • Promotion of the use of bicycles
  • Introduction of an incentive system (EcoPoints) to encourage employees to commute more frequently by e-bike, on foot or by public transport
  • Paths adapted for bicycle traffic and greater safety for cyclists on the company premises
  • Variety of sports program

GRI 403-7 Prevention and mitigation of occupational health and safety impacts directly linked by business relationships
SFS attaches enormous value to ensuring that it affords the highest possible level of occupational health and safety to both its employees and all other stakeholder groups that visiting the factory premises. All guests and business partners who visit the production facilities are given the appropriate protective equipment (including face mask, safety glasses, safety shoes, etc.). Contractors performing work on the factory premises are also briefed on the safety precautions and are obliged to follow these rules. Additionally, as part of our quality assurance agreement, suppliers agree to safeguard occupational safety and promote healthy working conditions within their company and supply chain. This is systematically verified during supplier audits.

GRI 403-9 Work-related injuries
Although the number of work-related accidents involving one or more lost workdays was down 13.3 % in 2020 compared with 2019, the number of workdays lost rose from 1,749 days (2019) to 1,904 days during the year under review. All injuries were investigated and relevant improvements were made to prevent similar incidents in future. During the year under review, 9.5 work-related accidents were reported per 1,000 employees (previous year: 10.9). Since 2020, statistics on the total number of hours worked, the rate of work-related accidents involving > 3 days per 1,000 employees and the number of accidents per 1 million hours worked have also been recorded and published (see table).

2018 2019 2020 Change over previous year
Employee trend (FTE) 1) 8'529 8'978 8'956
Total number of hours worked in 2020 1'763'174 New indicator introduced in 2020
Work-related accidents 2) 112 98* 85 – 13.3%
Total number of workdays lost (>1 day) 1'693 1'749 1'904 8.9%
Total number of work-related accidents (>3 days) 57 New indicator introduced in 2020
Work-related accidents per 1,000 employees (>1 day) 13.1 10.9 9.5 – 13.1%
Of which, work-related accidents per 1,000 employees (>3 days) 6.4 New indicator introduced in 2020
Workdays lost per employee 0.20 0.19 0.21 9.1%
Accidents per 1 million hours worked > 1 day 4.73 New indicator introduced in 2020
Accidents per 1 million hours worked > 3 days 3.17 New indicator introduced in 2020
Number of fatalities per 1 million hours worked 0 New indicator introduced in 2020
Number of fatalities 0 0 0

*113 work-related accidents were specified in the report in 2019 based on a different data set; this figure has now been corrected to 98 accidents based on an improved data set and data collection methods.

1) Our reporting systems do not currently allow separate recording of work-related injuries sustained by workers who are not employees.
2) The number of work-related accidents is calculated based on the number of work-related injuries sustained that result in at least one lost workday.

The most common types of work-related injuries include lacerations (31%), accidents caused by tripping (28%) and injuries sustained as a result of improper use of materials or equipment (19%). To reduce the number of lacerations sustained, greater emphasis is now placed on the use of PPE (personal protective equipment). Accidents caused by tripping are reduced through visual cues and workplace optimization efforts with the help of the 5S methodology. A risk matrix is used to assess materials and equipment on a regular basis in order to minimize potential hazards.