Safety & Risk Management

Our Safety Culture

At Sysco and throughout our operating companies, providing a safe and productive work environment for our associates is a core value.

We place a high priority on addressing the root causes of workplace injuries, from revising the ergonomics of our truck cabs and loading ramps to encouraging safer behaviors such as proper lifting techniques and safe driving practices. Our employees receive extensive training and guidance and are expected to follow appropriate work practices.

Sysco has committed to partner with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at a number of our locations through its Voluntary Protection Program, which recognizes businesses and worksites demonstrating excellence in occupational safety and health. Sysco Dallas received the first VPP “Star” designation from OSHA, setting the standard for other operating locations across the company. We are encouraging all Sysco Broadline operating companies to pursue the OSHA VPP designation over the next seven years.

Our Approach

The safety of our associates, business partners and the public is our number one priority. Our goal is zero injuries, zero vehicular accidents and zero harmful incidents involving operational hazards and exposures. To achieve our goal of zero harm and achieve a sustainable culture of safety, we utilize the Sysco Safe behavioral management process which promotes the safety of Sysco’s employees, visitors, vendors, contractors, the environment and the general public; and ensures compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations. Sysco Safe contains all OSHA Voluntary Protection Program elements, including management leadership, employee involvement, work site analysis, hazard prevention and controls, recognition and safety and health training.

Statistically, organizations that implement involvement from all areas experience lower injury rates, fewer accidents, lower costs and improved employee morale. VisionZero provides management with the tools to create an environment that fosters safety for all employees. Commitment from all employees, at all levels, is vital to the overall and ongoing success of the VisionZero program. Sysco employees are encouraged to use the resources in this program to achieve the Vision of Zero injuries, Zero vehicular accidents and Zero harmful incidents.

Statistically, organizations that implement involvement from all areas experience lower injury rates, fewer accidents, lower costs and improved employee morale. Sysco Safe provides management with the tools to create an environment that fosters safety for all employees. Commitment from all employees, at all levels, is vital to the overall and ongoing success of the Sysco Safe program. Sysco employees are expected to use the resources in this program to achieve the Vision of Zero injuries, Zero vehicular accidents and Zero harmful incidents.

Sysco is committed to providing highly qualified teams of safety professionals who support each of our operating locations. We support continuing education and the attainment of industry certifications. Our team’s certifications and designations include: Certified Safety Professionals, Associates in Risk Management, Associates in Claims, Certified Safety and Health experts, Safety Health & Environmental Professional and Certified Occupational Health Nurses. Focusing on prevention through the creation of a safety culture, they provide safety leadership, strategic advice and subject matter expertise to our management teams regarding the implementation and management of safety policies, safety processes, training and audit functions.

In addition to personnel resources, Sysco is committed to providing technological solutions designed to improve communication and efficiencies across the organization, thereby increasing the time our management and safety teams can spend effectively engaging with associates to promote safe behaviors.

Our VisionZero intranet site was launched in FY2013. A 24/7 resource available to all Sysco operating companies, the site provides guidance and support through access to training programs, policies and performance reports to identify key areas of focus and promote best practices in managing the workplace health and safety risks facing Sysco associates. The VisionZero intranet site provides resources in the areas of occupational safety, transportation safety, environmental compliance, security and asset protection, health and wellness, crisis management and emergency response.

Our Performance

We continue to perform below the Bureau of Labor Statistics industry average for wholesale food distributors of 5.0 OSHA recordable injuries per 100 employees, and 4.1 DART (injuries resulting in Days Away/Restricted/Transfer duty). Our teams continue to identify the root causes of driving injuries and accidents and implement targeted programs that can drive continuous improvement to achieve our Vision Zero goal. Importantly, employee engagement and improved policies and practices helped us sustain our goal of zero occupational fatalities since 2011. 

Sysco’s greatest exposure to injury, for both warehouse and transportation associates, occurs while they are manually moving products. Our License to Lift program, launched in FY2013, delivered more than 70,000 safe lifting training modules to management and employees through the Sysco Interactive University in FY2014. Each of our operating companies sent Operations Managers/Supervisors to the “Lift Champion” training at the Industrial Safety & Rehabilitation (ISR) Institute in New Orleans for a two day certification course Each Opco has a minimum of two Lift Champions who provide observation and coaching to our warehouse and delivery teams to ensure safe lifting practices are followed and employees remain injury free.

In the fourth quarter, we launched Finish Strong, a program with focused initiatives designed to improve management-to-employee engagement regarding safety issues, hazard identification and correction. These programs are core components of the enterprise-wide Sysco Safe process and will serve as our back to basics focus throughout FY15.

We strive to meet and exceed all regulatory safety standards established by OSHA as well as our internal standards established to promote a safe work environment. Safety incidents that occur are investigated to identify causal factors, develop and implement solutions to prevent their recurrence, and track corrective actions. Our Regional and Corporate safety professionals partner with operating companies to train management personnel, assist in the accident investigation process and liaise with regulators including OSHA, DOT and the EPA. We utilize a Quarterly Compliance Certification process to monitor and track Opco performance to Federal, State and internal compliance standards.


We are proud that Sysco Dallas was our first Opco to achieve OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) Star status in 2010 and has successfully completed each successive annual OSHA audit. Sysco Charlotte joined Sysco Raleigh in achieving the North Carolina state Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) designation. Sysco Montana has committed to moving forward with the VPP designation process. Buckhead Beef Florida has submitted its VPP application and is awaiting OSHA’s preliminary approval and audit visit. Sysco Nashville and Sysco Knoxville have made the commitment to proceed with a VPP application once they complete the internal pre-VPP audit. We are encouraging all of our operating locations to apply for either designation over the next 7 years. This includes implementing a third party audit process resulting in the preparation of a gap analysis for operating locations to use as a guide to implementing changes and safety process improvement.

Four Sysco Safety Services associates are qualified as “Special Government Employees” (SGEs), enabling them to support OSHA in completing audits of businesses applying for the VPP designation. This provides Sysco with a valuable insight into injury reduction initiatives in other industries, as well as a better understanding of OSHA’s requirements and processes. We put this training and experience to use by conducting internal pre-assessment audits at Sysco operating locations before they submit applications to OSHA.

The Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia recognize employers for their commitment to safety through the Certificate of Recognition (CoR). Sysco Edmonton and Sysco Calgary achieved the Alberta Certificate of Recognition in 2008; while Sysco Victoria and Sysco Kelowna received the British Columbia Certificate of Achievement in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Sysco Vancouver successfully completed their CoR audit and is awaiting presentation of the certificate.

For our work providing the National Safety Council’s Defensive Driving courses online to our associates and their family members, the National Safety Council named Sysco a Trend Setter for DDC Online in FY2014. This award recognizes employers for their commitment to safety through encouraging participation in a Defensive Driving Course and providing access to Defensive Driving Courses online.

Environmental Compliance

In Sysco’s commitment to excellence within the regulatory compliance area, we continue to expand on our existing monitoring and training solutions. For example, Sysco utilizes a standardized Process Safety Management program with corporate monitoring capabilities. The Electronic Process Safety Management program has helped to increase our operating companies’ compliance with various environmental regulations such as OSHA’s 29 CFR 119 and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 40 CFR 68 Risk Management Plan, both of which regulate anhydrous ammonia refrigeration systems. Storm Water compliance has been centralized and is now monitored through E-Compliance, an electronic information tracking, management and reporting program that will increase our ability to audit and correct deficiencies.

Last year Sysco introduced an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) training series to associates. This 8-part series provides knowledge about multiple EPA regulations and is designed to protect our associates, facilities and the environment.

We developed an environmental risk ranking system for all Sysco facilities and have completed comprehensive environmental audits at ten of our operating companies that ranked in our top 25%. Action plans were developed to address the audit findings, and all identified issues were resolved.

During FY2014, the EPA conducted 24 inspections of Sysco facilities without issuing any citations.

Health and Safety Training

Sysco provides OSHA required training as well as job-specific training for all associates and management. Associates receive health and safety training including effective coaching and engagement training during their initial orientation as well as ongoing, job-specific training. We conduct training through classroom orientation, retraining & recertification, one-on-one retraining and online through Sysco Interactive University.

Delivery Associate Safety

In FY2014 we completed our multiyear rollout of DriveCam, a two-directional camera system installed in all Sysco vehicles in the U.S. and Canada. DriveCam onboard video and monitoring technology helps reduce vehicle collisions by identifying and addressing risky driving behaviors. This technology helps to prevent injury to drivers and the public and improves compliance with policies and procedures designed to maximize the safe and efficient operation of our vehicles.

DriveCam provides insight into at risk behaviors, that contributes to distracted driving and fatigue-related incidents, many of which are near-miss incidents with no actual accident or damage occurring. Incidents are used as a training tool to improve driver behaviour and provide guidance on steps to take when distraction and fatigue becomes evident. Sysco has developed a range of online courses on avoiding distracted driving and handling fatigue. They supplement other training material already in use at our operating locations.

We are developing a comprehensive program to reduce events related to fatigued and drowsy driving. The three-pronged approach includes application of high-visibility hours of service regulation compliance, with weekly reports distributed to all operations groups using XATA onboard recorders. We developed state of the art fatigue management training that is required for all commercial motor vehicle drivers who have demonstrated drowsy behavior through the DriveCam system. Finally, we completed development of an obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) program to identify delivery associates at high risk for OSA, with the purpose of treating those diagnosed with the condition.

DriveCam metrics show considerable overall improvement in FY2014 compared to FY13 with a 38% improvement in the Total Risk Score per vehicle, 7% reduction in Near Collisions and a 5% reduction in Collisions.

In 2013, we centralized the administration of Driver Qualification files, standardizing program management and file management to ensure compliance with DOT (Department of Transportation) regulations. Corporate management and electronic file maintenance have been centralized for 90 operating companies and 7,800 drivers, increasing compliance and efficiency at the operating company level. In FY2014 we also implemented a centralized DOT drug/alcohol testing initiative for fourteen companies implementing SAP; and we plan to continue the centralization throughout FY15 as new companies convert to SAP. This initiative will increase compliance with required programs and ensure consistent application of the drug/alcohol testing process.

Warehouse and Distribution Safety

Finish Strong

We introduced our Finish Strong program in the final quarter of FY2014, focusing on management and employee engagement designed to raise safety awareness and prevent injury. The program consists of three components executed in addition to our existing safety programs: A Daily Safety Message is communicated to warehouse, transportation, office and specialty company employees at pre shift meetings; during twice daily Safety Huddles, a supervisor meets with two or more associates to discuss the daily safety message or other safety related topics; and each supervisor conducts a Daily Safety Inspection to identify hazards and develop corrective action plans. All of the programs are tracked and performance is measured. These initiatives are continuing into FY2015 under the Stay Strong Incident Reduction Program.

License to Lift

Our “License to Lift” (LTL) program, introduced in 2013, focuses on proper lifting techniques for warehouse and distribution center associates. It is delivered through in-person and SIU training during which associates are filmed using an electronic tablet application that compares their lifting behavior with a “perfect lift” performed by an ergonomic expert. Associates receive immediate feedback on their lift performance and can adjust their behavior accordingly.

Associates are required to complete 11 training modules to achieve their License to Lift, with recertification required every two years. Lift Champions are identified in each location and receive specialized License to Lift training, qualifying them to conduct assessments on associate lifting techniques and provide re-training as needed. Ninety five percent of all warehouse and transportation associates who manually lift product have completed the training to date, and we expect 100% completion for all employees employed more than 30 days in the first quarter of FY2015.


Sysco participates in a number of industry partnerships to contribute to improved workplace safety and promote safety initiatives. They include the National Safety Council, the Voluntary Protection Program Participation Association, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, the National Private Truck Council, the Texas Motor Transportation Association, International Foodservice Distributors Association and the American Trucking Association.

Wellness Initiatives

We aim to promote a culture of health, wellness and physical activity and provide the necessary programs and initiatives to help our associates’ lead healthy lives. Daily wellness reminders are issued from Safety Services via email for communication to associates and drivers in pre-shift meetings and postings on bulletin boards and break areas.  Health and Wellness promotions are conducted on a regular basis by Wellness Committees, Human Resources, and Safety and Management.

Our Corporate office  in Houston as well as Sysco sites in East Texas, Knoxville, Hampton Roads and Syracuse have been recognized by the American Heart Association as “Fit-Friendly” workplaces since 2012. Our corporate office has an on-site fitness center (as do many of the operating companies) with certified fitness trainers providing personal training, wellness committees that coordinate  annual health fairs, quarterly fitness challenges and luncheons highlighting information about various health topics.