Skip to Main Content
(Press Enter)

Workplace Safety

Keeping People Safe

Our workplace safety vision is to “Live Values that Return People Home Safely. Every Person. Every Site. Every Day.”

This vision is guided by our safety policy, which applies to all employees and others working at our sites, including consultants, agents, sales representatives, distributors, independent contractors, third-party suppliers who work on GM premises and contract workers when they perform work for GM.

Like product safety, we manage workplace safety at the highest levels through monthly operating reviews with global functional senior leaders, including the CEO and the Global Safety Leadership Council (GSLC), which comprises more than 20 senior global leaders. The GSLC determines strategic global safety direction and approves workplace safety initiatives, which are the responsibility of the GM Vice President of Workplace Safety. This senior management member also provides a bimonthly update on the safety performance of the company to GM's Board. Enterprise workplace safety risks and control initiatives are reviewed on an annual basis, and updates are provided to the Risk and Cybersecurity Committee of the Board on a quarterly basis.

A major focus of workplace safety management in 2020 was COVID-19. As part of our pandemic safety efforts, GM published a COVID-19 Employee Guide, which covered protocols for entering our facilities, mask-wearing and physical distancing, keeping spaces clean and ventilated, and handling suspected COVID-19 cases. The guide includes advice for managing stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 outbreak.

We shared this with our suppliers, across industry trade groups and government authorities, among others, to unite efforts to fight against the pandemic. All people leaders gained a thorough understanding of the COVID-19 guide by taking a class, and then trained their respective staffs on the protocols, with an emphasis on showing empathy for the evolving concerns of their team members. GM has used multiple communication platforms—our intranet, social media platforms, virtual meetings, television and radio—to inform employees of the safety measures put in place to reduce their anxiety and ensure their comfort when returning to work. Because of our enterprisewide protocols, employees have communicated that they feel safer at work than they do elsewhere outside their homes.

Lost Work Day Case Rate
(GM Employees)

Number of lost workday injuries and illnesses per 1,000,000 work hours. This KPI focuses on those injuries and illnesses that resulted in employees’ losing days from work. This helps us identify areas and processes where we should center our focus to improve our safety controls.

(GM Employees and Contractors)

A work-related incident resulting in death. Our target is zero, so that every person who enters a GM facility leaves safe and unharmed.

Recordable Incident Rate
(GM Employees and Contractors)

Number of incidents that resulted in injuries or illnesses that required medical treatment beyond simple first aid treatment per 1,000,000 work hours. This metric helps to identify hazards, eliminate risks and drive reporting for all incidents so that we can learn and assess areas for improvement.

Lost Work Day Case Rate

Number of lost workday injuries and illnesses per 1,000,000 work hours.

Sentinel Events Proactive

Percent of Sentinel Events (any event with the potential to generate a fatality) detected as Unsafe Acts/Conditions and that did not result in an incident.

Global Calls to Action Closed on Time

Percent of Global Calls to Action closed on time. A Global Call to Action is a list of lessons learned and required corrective actions to be performed by each GM site globally in response to serious incidents that occurred on any GM site.

Global Workplace Safety Strategy

Our comprehensive Global Workplace Safety (GWS) strategy highlights five key focus dimensions that will enable us to achieve our vision of zero injuries. We have a five-year plan for each of these dimensions, which is refreshed each year with new initiatives to help us continuously improve and make progress toward this vision.

An Enterprise Safety Culture

GM believes safety begins with a decision. Our vision is for each person to decide to keep themselves and their team members safe. As an example, the “invisible hand” concept sparks discussion about why people choose to take unwanted risks. This concept acknowledges the performance pressure associated with the natural human instinct to work faster and more efficiently—often at the expense of working safely

Strengthening our enterprise safety culture has been one of our most significant areas of focus over the past year. We did this through a number of initiatives, including a deep dive on safe decision making. This initiative was focused on how decisions made at the highest levels of our company can impact safety over the long term. Rather than looking at the failures that directly contributed to an incident, we attempted to widen our view to other contributing factors, such as facility design choices, that could create an unsafe environment. Working with a third-party consultant, we analyzed a set of serious safety incidents to determine the sequence of decisions that contributed or led to them. By building awareness and understanding of the seemingly unrelated decisions that can impact safety, we are increasing leaders’ capacity to ask the right questions and think holistically about the role they play in ensuring a safe place to work.

Through another initiative, we continued our efforts, started in 2019, to assess the safety culture at GM sites. These assessments are conducted by an external consultant, and the methodology includes gathering quantitative data via survey, reviewing incident reports and capturing qualitative data through focus groups and interviews. This information is used to provide a status of our cultural attributes compared to other companies and identify improvement opportunities for growth. This is a long-term initiative which we plan to continue in future years to help us enrich our safety culture.

Hazard and Risk Identification

We strive for every person, at every site, to be able to recognize hazards, understand risk levels and feel empowered to address safety concerns. Our people are regularly trained in basic hazard recognition, and our leaders are trained in GM’s specific risk assessment tools, like our risk profile tool and Safety Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (SFMEA) tool. Hazard recognition is also included in our training programs for new hire and summer intern programs.

Hazards identified are captured through our reporting systems, which include our employee safety concern process, safety tours and safety conversations. During 2020, 2,919 near-miss incidents and 2,308 unsafe acts and conditions in the workplace were reported and addressed. To help improve our hazard and risks identification capability, standard safety tour templates and communication materials associated with our most common hazards in GM have been developed. These common hazards include confined space, hazardous energy control, electrical, mobile equipment and pedestrian interaction and fall hazards, among others. These global checklists help our operations identify and control risks and raise awareness among leaders.

Senior leadership plays an important role in instilling safety throughout the GM culture. Workplace safety is a criterion for senior leadership performance reviews and is tied to executive compensation. Lagging and leading metrics are used to drive improvement in our corporatewide safety culture. Lagging metrics include performance in fatalities, permanent disabling injuries and injuries resulting in restricted work or days of lost work. Leading indicators are developed by each function based on proactive initiatives to improve GM’s safety culture. These enterprisewide initiatives are broad in nature, cross-functional and comprehensive in their inclusion of all people. They are categorized into five general focus areas:

  • Engaged Leaders: Leaders need to be “advocates” and own safety for themselves and others.
  • Working Safely Everywhere: Regardless of where work is performed, people will recognize hazards and choose safe decisions.
  • Zero Injury Mindset: A zero injury mindset is demonstrated by the relentless pursuit of injury reduction through analyzing data and developing action plans to prevent recurrences.
  • Health and Wellness: Our mental health and well-being are just as important as our physical well-being.
  • “Road Warriors” Safety: Safe guidance to people who are in their vehicles traveling from site to site.

As part of our end-to-end approach to safety, GM engages leaders in every function to demonstrate safe behaviors for their teams and conduct risk assessments to address potential hazards. Global Safety Week, as well as other events year-round, help leaders educate employees on safety topics.

RoboGlove Technology Eases Tough Manufacturing Work

Several years ago, GM and NASA worked together to develop the RoboGlove, a wearable device that assists users in grasping, potentially reducing repetitive stress injuries. In 2020, NASA awarded GM its annual Commercial Invention of the Year award for the innovation. The RoboGlove’s combination of cutting-edge sensors, actuators and “tendons” forms a soft exoskeleton that can be worn by manufacturing employees when performing repetitive motions during vehicle assembly, like pulling triggers or holding heavy tooling for long periods of time.

Workplace Safety Systems

Our global safety management system, Workplace Safety System (WSS), drives continuous improvement in all five global workplace safety dimensions. The system is aligned with most management systems of international consensus standards such as OSHAS 18001 or ISO 45001 and the continuous improvement philosophy.

The WSS includes a set of tools, known as elements, designed to drive continuous improvement in safety through the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. Using the PDCA cycle changes our mindset from “tell me what you want me to get done” to “I know what I need to do, and I know how to improve upon it,” which reinforces behaviors that change the culture. The five main components of the PDCA cycle are broken down into 18 individual elements, as the graphic below indicates.

Performance standards establish the minimum global requirements to manage specific hazards common to GM sites. A subset of performance standards is technical standards, which provide additional technical details for effective implementation of a performance standard. Both performance and technical standards are based on recognized international standards such as ISO, OSHA and ANSI, among others. They are mandatory for all GM operating units.

Our performance and technical standards include, for example, standards to manage confined space entries, electrical safety, hazardous energy control, fall hazards and pedestrian and mobile vehicle interaction. Some of these standards are also focused on having healthy working environments for our employees, like ergonomic programs, noise control and indoor air quality programs.

Ergonomically correct workspaces are a priority at manufacturing facilities around the world. All workspaces at manufacturing facilities must meet ergonomic criteria, and job positions are evaluated using screening tools like Risk Factor Checklist, Global Ergonomic Screening Tool, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Lifting Equation and the Occupational Repetitive Action tool. In addition to the ergonomic design of workspaces, we work on general practices to eliminate sprains and strains, evaluating and coaching employees on various ways to approach physical tasks and deal with soreness before serious injury occurs.

Another key performance standard is our Design-In Safety Process, which ensures safety is incorporated early in the design of any new vehicle manufacturing facility, installation or asset to eliminate and/or mitigate hazards and latent conditions. This guarantees the use of more robust safety controls and less use of administrative controls or personal protective equipment to address risks.

Our governance oversight process for the implementation of the workplace safety system, including performance standards and technical standards, works on three levels, the first being site annual self-assessments. The second level is done through validations conducted by global/regional safety staff teams, and the third level is performed by independent internal safety audits conducted by General Motors Auditing Services, which provide oversight to the Board of Directors.

Data-Driven Decisions

Accessible, easy-to-analyze global safety data promotes data-driven decisions. A data management system is used to report, collect and analyze all safety information, including incident reports, audit findings, inspections, corrective actions and risk mitigation data.

Leaders evaluate injury data within their span of control and drive accountability, analysis and data-driven decisions at all levels. At every level of the organization, we share the right information to align strategies, set aggressive goals, assess progress and course-correct as necessary to demonstrate significant improvement.

  • Board of Directors: Management’s efforts to improve our Safety Culture and devise appropriate risk reduction initiatives are reviewed throughout the year. Global injury data for the most significant injury types (e.g., fatalities, permanent disabling injuries and lost workday cases) is shared to evaluate the effectiveness of our overall Global Workplace Safety Strategy.
  • CEO and Senior Leader Team: The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) is personally leading safety improvement initiatives to improve our safety culture and reduce injuries. In addition to the data reviewed by the Board, injury data is segregated by region, sector and function to drive accountability and ensure proper evaluation of safety initiatives with course correction as necessary. Trend analysis is conducted for all significant injuries, while permanent disabling injuries and hospitalizations are discussed in depth. The SLT sets aggressive goals in order for progress to be made toward significant year-over-year improvement.
  • Regional and Functional Leaders: Regional and functional leaders are provided more detailed injury data and information to successfully lead change in their area of responsibility. In addition to the information provided to the SLT, the regional and functional leaders analyze injury data by both number and hours worked to identify significant trends or outliers. Metrics are also tracked to connect business plan initiatives to injury results.
  • Site Teams: Every site team across the globe has specific safety performance goals that support global commitments. Sites analyze their injury data in depth, evaluating injury rates, injury types and body parts affected. In addition to all the data shared at each level of the company, incident data, such as near misses and first aid visits, is used to develop additional leading metrics. Sites utilize the Workplace Safety System to drive continuous improvement.

In 2020, we increased our focus on data analysis related to serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs). We introduced the concept of SIF events as an evolution of our original Sentinel Event concept, which included events with the potential to result in fatality. Sentinel events have been guiding our efforts around fatality prevention for the past seven years. While this process served us well toward the identification and control of incidents that could lead to a fatality, we know there are more opportunities at our sites to identify high-risk exposures that could not only cause fatalities but life-threatening and life-altering injuries as well. The new SIF concept will allow us to know the true extent of SIF exposure and where we should focus efforts to manage those exposures in our operations. Based on the results of this analysis, we will build reduction processes that will be implemented over the coming year.

Safety Contract Management

We aspire to do business with companies that share the same commitment to returning people home safely. Historically, most fatalities and severe injuries suffered on GM sites have involved contractors. This was particularly true during 2020, when we experienced higher rates of absenteeism due to employees who were exposed to COVID-19 outside the office. As a result, we relied more on contract labor than we have in the past. Our scope of safety contract management includes all contractors and service providers who perform work for us. Globally, all new contracts clearly outline GM’s safety requirements. We host safety contract management at key contractor symposiums to directly engage contractors on our safety requirements. Also, along with the purchasing team, we manage a cross-functional safety council with major contractors. Given high levels of compliance among our Tier I contractors, we shifted our focus in 2020 to subcontractors to ensure that everyone who works in our facilities receives the appropriate instruction needed to remain safe and well.

Lost Work Day Case Rate
(GM Employees)
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
3.5 4 3.05 2.85 1.4
(GM Employees and Contractors)
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
4 3 0 0 1
Recordable Incident Rate
(GM Employees and Contractors)
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
7.5 7.95 6.8 6.2 6.45
Lost Work Day Case Rate
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
0.56 0.32 0.25 0.3 .025
Sentinel Events Proactive
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
70.6% 71.2% 65.5% 70.0% 70.3%
Global Calls to Action Closed on Time
2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
98.2% 98.8% 99.9% 98.8% 99.9%