We've got 8,900 employees, and we need to keep them all safe at work. Accidents have remained very low this year because we've continued to invest in safe processes and safe plant and machinery.
But having robust processes can only take us so far. So this year, we've turned our attention to changing behaviours and mind sets. We're also working with other companies and consultants to help us benchmark and challenge ourselves. We hope that these actions will improve our safety record even further.
We have brought safety teams from the trade division and the supply division together to share best practice and work on common risk areas. One example of this is a short film that we produced this year, highlighting our procedures for unloading at depots. Responsibility for safety when unloading is shared between the lorry driver making the delivery and the depot staff receiving and unloading the goods. Making a film with employees from both divisions allowed us to give a consistent message across the business.
Other highlights include:
We pay a good basic salary. We evaluate all our job roles against a consistent scale across each division. We use a scale based on the skills required for each role, and we set our salaries according to those skills. This is transparent and objective, and helps our people to know that we are treating them equally and paying them according to their skills. All of our pay rates are above the living wage, and most of them are well above it. We also offer a range of both core and opt-in benefits to suit our employees' lifestyles.
We offer all of our people the opportunity to be part of a pension scheme which we contribute to. In 2016 we paid £53.4m into our pension schemes for the benefit of our 17,000 members, which include both current and former employees. We also offer free shares to all our people who stay with the company for at least three years, so that they can share in our growth.
We give staff the opportunity to get substantial bonuses for exceptional performance. This has always been part of the Howdens business model and culture. Our people share in the profitability of their local site, as well as in the profitability of Howdens as a whole. In the words of some of our staff, the bonuses that they can achieve for exceptional performance in our peak trading period can be "life-changing".
Moving from training to learning & development, identifying tomorrow's leaders to grow with the business, developing new apprenticeships
We've completed our transformation beyond simply training for current job roles to developing for the future. Our business benefits from the investment we make in developing our people. When we invest in the right people we can grow our own leaders. Leaders who already understand the strategic importance of the Howdens business model and culture. Our investment in development also gives valuable opportunities to our best people and helps us to retain them.
We will need more leaders at every level as we implement our strategy to expand the depot network. We're using a consistent approach across the business to identify people with the potential to step up. Then we're supporting them with a tailored development framework to get them ready for their next career step before they actually take that step. This means that they can hit the ground running, with the confidence to perform at a high standard and to deliver the Howdens values and service to our customers.
We are also continuing to develop our apprenticeship programmes throughout the business, offering a range of worthwhile futures to young people across the country.
We have almost 300 apprentices currently training. In our Supply division, some of them are apprenticed in engineering, some are apprenticed to become multi-skilled machine operators, and some are apprenticed in our logistics operation and are learning to become our next generation of truck drivers.
In our Trade division we have apprentices working in a variety of roles across the depot network. 2016 has been the first year of our Howdens-specific three-year apprenticeship programme. During their first year, apprentices gain a nationally-recognised qualification and they also get experience of each main role in a depot, such as counter sales, business development, and kitchen design. In the second and third years, they decide to specialise in one role and they continue their development through specific courses relevant to that role.
See some of the stories that our people have to tell about their career development with Howdens at: https://careers.howdens.com/our-people.