The safety of our plants and processes is a key element of our environmental stewardship practices, allowing us to protect both our workforce and the people in the immediate vicinity of our sites. Furthermore, high-performance safety systems help minimize production errors and lower the risk of financial losses.
Our approach to plant and process safety
We seek to minimize manufacturing process hazards wherever possible in order to avoid workplace accidents, production outages and chemical leaks. We train our employees regularly in an effort to prevent human error and also to detect technical defects before they can cause damage.
How we organize our plant and process safety
Our Group Environment, Health, Safety, Security , Quality function (EQ) coordinates plant and process safety within our company (Environmental stewardship), with our individual sites and their EHS managers handling this at the operational level. In particular, fire protection is paramount to the safety of our plants and processes.
We conduct internal EHS audits to verify the safety of our plants and processes. While doing so, we also evaluate select suppliers based on criteria such as purchasing volumes, type of incoming raw materials and geographic location. If we identify technical or organizational deficiencies pertaining to occupational and plant safety, our vendors are obligated to rectify them. Our own sites are likewise required to correct any defects discovered during the audit, with the auditor verifying whether the specified corrective action has been taken. When it comes to our suppliers, our Procurement organization verifies that the appropriate measures have been implemented.
Integration of Versum Materials and Intermolecular
In the course of integrating Versum Materials and Intermolecular, two companies we acquired in 2019, we are reviewing their existing management structures, policies, standards, and procedures for plant and process safety and are implementing our internal Group-wide requirements if necessary. We are furthermore reviewing their current process for collecting plant and process safety-related indicators and are working to harmonize methodologies and timelines. Starting in 2020, we will be incorporating plant and process safety indicators for Versum Materials and Intermolecular into our reporting.
Our commitment: Standards and legislation
Our Group-wide EHS Plant and Process Safety standard, which sets forth the safety rules for all production plants and warehouses, encompasses the entire life cycle of a plant, from planning and construction to operation, retooling, servicing and maintenance through to closure. Before commissioning a plant, we draft a safety concept that is subject to continuous review and, when necessary, updated until the facility is decommissioned. This concept contains an overview of potential risks and the corresponding protective measures.
Our Group-wide EHS Spillage Control standard governs the handling of hazardous materials and stipulates organizational requirements to prevent toxic substances from spilling or leaking during storage and transport. In addition to this standard, our Risk Management Process guides all our sites in identifying and assessing risks and is used to devise steps to minimize them. Our Group Procedure Hazard and Operability Study defines the individuals responsible for pinpointing potential hazards during new plant construction, plant alterations or safety-relevant plant modifications as well as the manner in which these dangers should be identified and documented. In 2019, we revised our Fire Protection standard, which provides our sites with a clear framework of fire protection requirements.
The revised EU directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances (aka Seveso III) was transposed into German law in 2017 through the amended version of the 12th German Hazardous Incident Ordinance (aka 12th BImSchV). Our processes and documents governing the assessment and reporting of potential hazards comply with statutory requirements. On request, members of the public may access our safety reports at any time. At our Darmstadt (Germany) site, we hold neighborhood meetings to inform people about potential hazards and protective measures in the event of a hazardous incident. Further information can be found in our Hazardous Incident Brochure, which we update every three years and send to approximately 17,000 households in the vicinity of our global headquarters. The document is also available on our website.
Keeping a close eye on safety
Our EHS performance indicators make it possible to measure safety and identify opportunities for improvement. We track EHS performance indicators at all our production and warehouse facilities, as well as at major research sites. In doing so, we record both accidents and near misses. We investigate each individual incident and devise appropriate countermeasures in an effort to prevent such accidents from reoccurring in the future.
Under our EHS Incident Rate (EHS IR), which also includes our Loss of Primary Containment (LoPC) indicator, we record and evaluate all major and minor incidents. Also important is the EHS Leading Rate (EHS LR), which is calculated based on an analysis of near misses and critical situations. In 2019, we specified the Occupational Illness Rate (OIR) as an additional indicator. Complementing our EHS IR indicator, which tracks spontaneous accidents, the OIR is intended to record work-related illnesses and their long-term effects.
Furthermore, we have set the goal of stabilizing our lost time injury rate (LTIR) at 1.5 Group-wide by 2020, which measures the number of accidents Group-wide resulting in at least one missed day of work per million man-hours. Our individual business sectors also define their own annual targets for EHS IR and EHS LR. EHS performance indicator reports are submitted once a month at the business sector level, with the Executive Board receiving reports on the topic every six months.
EHS Incident Rate
To document accidents and other incidents, we track the EHS Incident Rate (EHS IR), an indicator that covers the following four types of incidents:
- The number of workplace accidents involving our employees and the contractors who work at our sites
- Environmentally relevant incidents as defined by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), for example product spills
- The activation of operational safety precautions with no adverse impact on people or the environment, such as preemptive systems shutdowns
- Deviations identified during external reviews and audits
The calculation of the EHS Incident Rate includes the number of incidents and the severity of the event relative to the number of man-hours worked. The lower the EHS Incident Rate, the safer the site is.
Our EHS IR indicator was 3.6 in 2019, which represents a significant year-on-year decrease (2018: 5.3). In 2019, we introduced a new calculation method, which is why our EHS IR figures for 2019 and 2018 deviate from those previously reported.
In 2019, we recorded no significant incident-related spills across any of our production, research and warehouse sites Group-wide.
Training and sharing lessons learned
The safety of our plants and processes is predicated on the successful interplay between man and machine, which is why it is crucial for us to provide our employees with regular training. Our internal continuing education programs for site, production, engineering, and EHS managers also cover plant and process safety. Likewise, we train newly hired EHS managers in plant and process safety during their onboarding, with 25 new EHS managers completing this training in 2019.
In the interest of improving safety, it is extremely important to continuously share best practices and lessons learned. This approach enables all our production sites to learn from incidents at other facilities and implement preventive measures. Once a month, for instance, site directors and EHS managers participate in safety leadership calls to share new lessons learned. Additionally, our site EHS managers regularly hold sessions to discuss matters.