JT Group health and safety

Our employees have the right to be protected from work-related injuries and illnesses, and it is our responsibility to provide a safe working environment. We align our health and safety standards with ISO 45001 (OHSAS 18001) and always meet or exceed legal requirements.

When our standards are stricter than local laws, we require our local offices to comply with our standards. The scope of our standards extends beyond our employees, covering contractors as well as visitors to our operations.

Aspirational goal

We will be the employer of choice by investing in people.


In line with our vision of zero workplace injuries, we will reduce injury rates by 25% by 2023 and 50% by 2030. (Baseline year: 2015).


Health and safety performance in our tobacco business

Recordable injury rate* declined 58.9% from 0.72 in 2015 to 0.30 in 2020.

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Recordable Injury Rate
(per 200,000 working hours)
Employees 0.72 0.64 0.67 0.50 0.49 0.30
  • * Recordable injury rate = recordable injuries/200,000 hours worked. Some data from newly acquired business has been excluded, as newly acquired business needs 18 months to integrate the JT Group health and safety standards.

Read more about our latest progress on the JT Group's tobacco business sustainability strategy.

Our health and safety performance as a Group

Recordable injury rate* declined 58.9% from 0.72 in 2015 to 0.30 in 2020.

  2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Number of fatalities Employees 1 2 0 1 1 3
Contractors 1 1
(only JTI)
2 0 0 0
Lost-time injury rate
(per 200,000 working hours)
Employees 0.34 0.39 0.38 0.24 0.24 0.20
Supervised workers 0.16 0.30 0.23 0.15 0.07
Occupational illness rate*1
(per million working hours)
Employees 0 0 0.08 0.02 0.01 0.37
Other important KPIs
% of cigarette and tobacco-related
factories certified to
ISO 45001 (OHSAS 18001)*2
78.9% 77.8% 74.4% 76.9% 79.5% 70.0%
Number of vehicle accidents*3 1122 1151 66 85 71 64
Vehicle accident frequency rate*3
(excludes property damage, accidents per million kilometers)
4.84 3.87 0.23 0.21 0.16 0.19

In 2019, we recalculated all of the historical data. Specifically, we removed some data from newly acquired business. This is because newly acquired business needs 18 months to integrate the JT Group Health and Safety Standards.

We no longer report the number of lost-time incidents or the lost-time incident rate, as this data is now covered by the recordable injury rate and lost-time injury rate.

We regret that 3 employees died as a result of work accidents in 2020. We try to learn from every accident and remain committed to achieving zero fatalities.

  • *1 Data scope: 2015: only JT. 2016 and 2017: JT and Japanese domestic Group companies. From 2018: the entire JT Group. 2020: the increase from 0.01 in 2019 to 0.37 in 2020 is due to COVID-19 work related cases. Read more about our data scopes and external verification.
  • *2 Data scope: 2020 only JTI
  • *3 The number of vehicle accidents and the vehicle accident frequency rate in 2015 and 2016 include damage to property, because the data is not available in our international tobacco business. The data in 2015 covers only our international tobacco business. From 2016, it covers JT and JTI.

Read more the way we define, calculate, and consolidate data in the Basis of reporting.

Three pillars of safety

Our safety programs are based on three fundamental pillars:

  • Safe workplaces
  • Safety competence
  • A Group-wide culture where the safety of our people always comes first

The level of risk varies from location to location, but the highest risks across the JT Group are driving vehicles, riding motorcycles (driver safety), and working with machinery, as well as slips, trips, and falls.

To mitigate these risks and prevent injuries, we conduct risk assessments throughout the whole supply chain. This helps us to identify hazards, implement appropriate measures, and ensure that our approach helps us to protect our employees. We also focus on raising awareness among employees and thoroughly embedding our safety culture in our day-to-day work.

In 2019, we rolled out a new driver safety policy and implementation guidelines across our international tobacco business. Focusing on driver behavior, the new guidelines require local offices to conduct a risk assessment to identify high-risk drivers. They must also send periodic progress reports and action plans. In 2020, we completed a Driver Safety Compliance Assessment. The results showed that the average market now complies with 80% of our global guidelines.

Considering the growing number of female employees, the policy also includes maternity protection for female drivers. Between 2019 and 2021, 30,000 employees will take a driver training course.

We had planned to launch a global tool in 2020 to facilitate risk assessment at local offices. This tool had been piloted in Egypt, where trying to reduce vehicle accidents is challenging due to poor infrastructure and traffic management, nationwide. Feedback from local health and safety managers and employees had been very positive. Despite the onset of COVID-19 across the world, and because we believe that people come first, we nevertheless managed to launch the new risk assessment program in several countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey, and Poland, reaching more than 1,700 drivers.

In the sales division of our Japanese operations, we have set ‘prevention of vehicle accidents during sales activities’ as a priority issue within our 2020 Occupational Health and Safety Plan.

Case study

Reducing incidents by 50% through our motorcycle safety program

Driving is a critically important area of safety for us, as it can lead to serious injuries and even fatalities. Driving is most dangerous in countries where safety standards and awareness are lower, and ingrained driver behavior is less risk-averse.

We have been addressing this issue since 2016, when we launched a motorcycle risk management program in countries where employees drive motorcycles daily, such as Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania. We have since updated the program and we are now planning to implement it in our acquired operations in countries such as Indonesia and Ethiopia. In 2020, we launched a Motorcycle Rider Hazard Assessment and E-learning program in Bangladesh to protect our employees.

The motorcycle program is designed to reduce risks by teaching the technique of ‘defensive driving’ to reduce accidents and focusing on the proper maintenance and inspection of vehicles. It emphasizes the need to wear proper protective equipment, such as helmets, gloves, and high-visibility jackets.

Thanks to Train-the-Trainer sessions, we now have 130 specialized motorcycle instructors who can provide training in their countries. The program has had a significant impact on safety performance. In 2019, the number of motorcycle-related injuries in the countries where we implemented the programs shrank by 50% compared to 2016 and 2017.

In 2020, we expanded and refined the program by developing and implementing a remote e-learning Driver Safety Leadership Program in Zambia. The program is for employees of all levels, including managers and supervisors, and specifically targets risks and behaviors within our Leaf Organization in this country.

Ensuring the same standards around the world

As part of our drive to expand the business geographically, we have made acquisitions in new markets.

  • In 2017, we acquired an Indonesian tobacco company and assets of a tobacco company in the Philippines, and we became the majority shareholder of The National Tobacco Enterprise (Ethiopia) Share Company.*1
  • In 2018, we acquired additional tobacco companies in Russia and Bangladesh.
  • These acquisitions considerably increased the size of our workforce.*2

Most of these acquired businesses operate in developing countries, with a raft of societal and economical challenges. We recognize this and feel responsible for improving the working environment. We therefore introduce our policies firmly and immediately after each acquisition. We also visit the sites and support local managers to ensure that our policies are endorsed and embedded across the Group.

Particularly in these countries, health and safety issues pose a serious risk to local communities, our employees, contractors, and our business continuity. For this reason, we take a systematic and risk-based approach to acquired businesses from the outset.

The Health and Safety team at our headquarters conducts a risk assessment for potential new countries to check whether their standards meet ours. Following an acquisition, we support local offices to identify key risks, develop and implement 18-month action plans, and align policies with our standards.

Following the implementation of our global policy and standards in Ethiopia, employees can work in a much safer workplace and we have drastically reduced the number of work-related injuries at this location. Previously, there had been incidents involving moving equipment, falls, and vehicle accidents, among other safety risks. Now employees are more safety-aware, and we continue to make efforts to create a workplace free from any safety issues.

  • *1 We became the majority shareholder of the Ethiopian company in December 2017.
  • *2 Please refer to our GRI Index for detailed information about our workforce composition.

Towards a better workplace

We care deeply about employee well-being because we want our employees to feel comfortable and motivated every day. We run a variety of well-being programs across the Group, such as ergonomic assessments and ensuring general occupational hygiene.

To design these programs, we gather well-being data from our local offices. In 2018, we expanded our data scope by introducing new rules requiring all local offices to report their occupational health cases to our headquarters. This will allow us to understand our global risks and develop a consistent approach to them, while strengthening our existing protection measures.

Local managers are responsible for investigating reported issues and identifying the causes. If the issues are attributed to the work or workplace, we take appropriate measures immediately to protect employees’ well-being and prevent recurrences.

We communicate the importance of health check-ups to our employees and put in place initiatives to facilitate them. In Japan, through these check-ups, we identified several lifestyle-related risk factors which can cause chronic conditions such as diabetes. We therefore launched a platform where employees can view the results of their check-up and receive relevant well-being tips. This will raise employee awareness of lifestyle-related risk factors, and ultimately reduce absenteeism rates.

Another key focus area in our Japanese operations is employee mental health. As mental health issues can be related to stress, we encourage employees to attend stress management sessions and individual meetings with doctors. Following the onset of COVID-19, these meetings took place via video call, and we also offered online exercise programs. Both measures were designed to support our employees’ optimum health.

In addition, we created video content and held sessions on sleeping well, as our annual medical questionnaire showed that this was a key concern among employees.

These programs have had a positive impact on employee productivity and the absenteeism rate in Japan, which has recently been below 1%.

We are pleased to announce that JT was named as a “White 500” company for the fifth year running in 2021. This award is presented by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. It recognizes large enterprises that are making outstanding progress towards better well-being among their employees.

Our response to COVID-19

People come first. The safety and well-being of our employees, contractors, their families, and the communities in which we operate are at the heart of every decision we make.

At the JT Group, we implemented a number of measures to reduce the impact of COVID-19. We have taken a risk-based approach, identifying the highest risks to our Company and making it a priority to take relevant action.

We analyze the impact on business from various perspectives. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in January 2020, we recognized the virus as a threat to our employees and the business community. Our corporate security and health and safety experts immediately started to create daily reports and risk assessments related to the impact of the virus on employee travel, health and safety, and supply chains. This gave management access to the latest information and speeded up decision-making.

We also provided best practices for business continuity during the pandemic. These included health and safety guidelines for different environments, including offices, factories, and sales, in dozens of countries. We supported business units worldwide by procuring and shipping personal protective equipment where needed.

In addition, we offered online health and safety training to more than 7,500 people. For health and safety leaders, we provided extra training on specific risk assessment and control measures. This training was also available to employees at a higher risk of exposure, including members of our sales force, our cleaning and hygiene staff, and security guards.

We have a long-standing corporate culture of encouraging flexible hours and remote working right across the Company. Fortunately, these practices enabled most of our office-based employees to seamlessly work from home soon after the COVID-19 outbreak began.

We also provided detailed travel security advice for employees when borders were rapidly closing, with severe and often unannounced restrictions on travelers.

We take a science-based approach to identifying the highest risks to our employees. Our COVID-19 policies and guidelines are accessible to all employees worldwide through our health and safety platform, ensuring a constant flow of clear and scientifically accurate information. Using new online technologies, we have increased collaboration across risk functions to make sure our people have the information and tools they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Alicia Olo Martinez
Director, Global Health and Safety, Corporate Sustainability, JT International

Alicia Olo Martinez
William L. Wallrapp

2020 was certainly the year of the unexpected. The COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic and social fallout were unforeseeable. However, JT Group’s response to the crisis has been decisive. From fully embracing a work-from-home platform for office employees to strict social distancing and hygiene measures in our factories, our leadership recognized what many did not – that we were experiencing a critical moment with profound and permanent changes to the business community. While 2021 will certainly remain unpredictable, we will continue to provide our leadership with timely advice and risk assessments to ensure they have the latest information to successfully navigate these uncertain times.

William L. Wallrapp
Director, Corporate Security, Sustainability Management Division, JT

Read more about the impact of COVID-19 in our FY2020 Integrated Report (P.10).

Case study

Japan steps up to eliminate global hunger

JT has been participating in the ‘Table for Two’ program, which donates the equivalent of one meal to a developing country for every meal purchased by employees at JT’s cafeteria in Tokyo.

In light of COVID-19, working from home became the norm for employees in 2020, and use of the cafeteria decreased. However, we found a new way to keep the program running, while encouraging employees to keep fit at the same time. Throughout October, the Company donated one meal for every 8,000 steps taken per person per day. A total of 1,900 employees stepped up to the challenge.

Find out more our community investment initiatives.

Japan steps up to eliminate global hunger