We take responsibility for the health and safety of our employees every single day, especially when faced with new challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. We do everything we possibly can to safeguard them against both accidents and work-related illnesses. With a view to stress prevention, nutrition and exercise, we help our people avoid health problems through steps that are easy to integrate into their daily work routine.
Our approach to preventing accidents and promoting health
We seek to promote the health and well-being of our employees and sustain their ability to perform over the long term, which necessitates a safe workplace. We are therefore constantly working to take our safety culture to the next level.
Before starting any activity worldwide, we perform a hazard assessment to identify risks and do everything possible to eliminate them before commencing the activity or commissioning a plant. If this is not feasible, we put measures in place to minimize the potential impacts. Such hazard assessments are the responsibility of our individual sites and are therefore conducted by them. We are in the process of establishing this procedure at our Versum Materials and Intermolecular sites.
The lost time injury rate (LTIR) is the indicator used to gauge the success of our occupational safety efforts. This figure is a global measure of the number of accidents resulting in at least one day of missed work per one million man-hours. We track the LTIR for both employees and temporary staff. Our previous goal was to lower our LTIR to 1.5 (accidents resulting in at least one day of missed work per one million man-hours) by 2020. Having achieved an LTIR of 1.3 in 2020, we once again succeeded in remaining below the ambitious target. We are now working on a new target for the future.
We use our Environment, Health and Safety Incident Rate (EHS IR) to track unplanned accidents. Alongside this indicator, since 2019 we have also been using the Occupational Illness Rate in the United States to monitor work-related illnesses and their long-term effects.
At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, we continued to pursue our BeSafe! program in 2020, giving it new direction and impetus. In line with the motto “Let’s keep each other safe”, we are striving to bolster team spirit and empower our people to be mindful of one another.
Through the efforts of our Health Management (HM) unit, we are bolstering our company and leadership culture at Darmstadt and Gernsheim. To verify the efficacy of HM’s initiatives and programs, we have developed a performance indicator system. In 2020, we once more included questions regarding employee health in our Group-wide, anonymous employee engagement survey. In the long run, we intend to use this input to calculate our Healthiness Index, which should reflect the general state of health of our workforce at both of these sites. HM utilizes the health-related results of the employee engagement survey, the findings from our company health insurance fund’s health report, and evaluations from our Site Medical Center to advise the leadership at Darmstadt and Gernsheim. When specific indicators such as workplace stress start rising, Health Management meets with the respective units to discuss ways to rectify the situation. We utilize all the findings in the creation of prevention programs tailored to specific target groups or facilities.
In the coming years, we will be focusing particularly on shift work, mental health issues and demographic change. Moreover, we plan to identify in which working areas certain illnesses occur frequently so that we can take targeted steps to eliminate the root causes.
How we manage occupational health and safety
Our Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) management system is the responsibility of our Group Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) function, which reports to the Vice Chair of the Executive Board and Deputy CEO. EQ sets objectives, globally oversees the respective initiatives, and conducts internal EHS audits, while local EHS managers and their teams ensure that our individual sites comply with occupational safety laws and regulations. They are also responsible for local projects, campaigns and programs.
Employees worried about their health or safety are encouraged to use our global SpeakUp Line and are also allowed to temporarily step back from their work until the issue has been resolved.
At our Darmstadt site, we also have safety councils and committees that meet to address health and safety issues, discussing strategy and focus areas with senior leaders, health and safety experts, and employees.
At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, our Health Management unit helps embed health awareness in our company culture. The appropriate strategy, individual focal areas and steps required are developed by an interdisciplinary steering committee consisting of various senior leaders. Meeting six times a year, the committee discusses topics such as workplace health fundamentals, good leadership and tailored approaches to promoting employee health. After implementing each measure, Health Management team asks all participants for their anonymous feedback and suggestions for improvement, which help shape the evolution and growth of the initiatives.
At both of these sites, our interdisciplinary Mental Health Team is working to tackle the growing challenges surrounding mental health in an effort to protect our workforce against psychological stress. Our Mental Health Team provides our people interdisciplinary support from a single source. In 2020, for instance, we offered mental health seminars. With the Covid-19 lockdown causing many of our employees anxiety and uncertainty, our Mental Health Team published extensive information on coping with the situation and maintaining a healthy mental state on our intranet. Moreover, we set up a telephone hotline for each country. Since then, our employees and their families have had access to confidential counseling services around the clock.
Safety officers and health partners
At our sites worldwide, we have employees who, in addition to their usual duties, help their supervisors ensure compliance with safety regulations and requirements. At the same time, they also act as points of contact for their colleagues regarding safety-related matters. In 2020, we surveyed our safety officers about their roles and responsibilities in order to identify unmet needs and determine the necessary steps going forward.
At our sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim, we also have health partners in place who are the interface between our employees and Health Management. They function as a health-related liaison for their colleagues while also informing their teams about the health programs and services on offer. They furthermore make recommendations to Health Management regarding employee needs.
Our employees undergo training before taking up their role as safety officer or health partner.
Our commitment: Policies and company agreements
Defining our principles and strategies for environment, health and safety (EHS), our Group EHS Policy is an integral part of our EHS management system, which undergoes an external ISO 45001 audit every year.
Our Group Health Policy details our approach to ensuring workplace safety for our employees while also promoting their health and well-being. This document sets out our Group-wide approach to health and safety management, which is aimed at preventing workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. One component of the policy is our Global Well-being and Health Promotion Framework, which describes the differing requirements in a wide array of countries. Our individual sites are responsible for performing local workplace risk assessments and hazard analyses.
In 2020, we furthermore introduced our internal Contractor EHS Management standard, which has replaced EHS Compliance for Contractor Management. This new standard helps us ensure that our contractors adhere to environment, health and safety requirements throughout the entire process, from starting a task to completion. Alongside this document, our new standard operating procedure entitled “Procedure Construction Safety” clearly lays out practices for safe conduct on construction sites.
At most of our facilities in Germany, we work in partnership with employee representatives to draw up company agreements on occupational health and safety. For instance, our Occupational Integration Management company agreement, which applies to all our sites in Germany, governs the procedure for employees who have been on extended sick leave. This approach aims to retain an employee’s position while also helping to prevent adverse health impacts after the respective employee returns to work.
Safety certification at our sites
In 2020, we transitioned our occupational health and safety management system to the new ISO 45001 occupational health and safety certification guideline, which has replaced the previously applicable OHSAS 18001. Our occupational health and safety management system is currently ISO 45001-certified at 42 sites. At 41 of these facilities, 100% of employees are covered by this certified system. At our global headquarters in Darmstadt, ISO 45001 covers around 70% of the workforce; the occupational health and safety of the remaining 30% of Darmstadt employees, who do not work in operating units, are safeguarded by our company’s management system. The certification process helps us pinpoint weak areas and identify scope for improvement, allowing us to take the necessary steps in a timely fashion to ensure the health and safety of our employees going forward. Other sites are also urged to apply this standard.
At our sites, we track occupational safety data on a monthly basis. Our employees are required to immediately report relevant occupational accidents to EQ, where the incidents are assessed. If necessary, we then implement additional safety measures at our sites. This procedure is an integral practice across all of our production facilities around the world.
The majority of incidents resulting in lost time were slips, trips and falls, along with contusions and lacerations from the operation of machinery and equipment. In 2020, we recorded no fatal accidents.
Clear rules of conduct
Experience shows that most workplace accidents can be prevented by proper conduct. For our occupational health and safety, it is therefore essential that our employees have the relevant EHS training and certification. We educate our employees on occupational health and safety, actively engaging them in our efforts. For instance, we invite them to participate in inspections together or in the selection of personal protective gear. This involvement is crucial because our people best understand their actual working conditions and what is needed, enabling us to constantly improve our occupational health and safety practices and performance.
Group-wide, all new EHS managers must complete a three-day EHS onboarding that covers topics such as occupational health and safety as well as our BeSafe! safety culture program. Through this initiative, we raise employee awareness of workplace dangers and teach them rules for safe behavior. Nearly all our manufacturing and warehouse facilities have now been incorporated into the BeSafe! program. In addition, our sites regularly conduct occupational safety training that covers both the specific local risks and legal requirements. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to cancel many on-site activities in 2020 and instead held all BeSafe! workshops virtually.
Promoting employee health
For employees at our sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim, our Health Management unit offers specific health services such as mindfulness courses and workplace ergonomics consultation. Moreover, we use a standard operating procedure to continuously assess the working conditions and environment of our employees and improve these in line with the latest scientific findings. We publish a health catalog in both English and German detailing our Health Management services, which cover topics such as ergonomics, nutrition, stress, and mental health issues.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been educating our employees on a wide array of health matters, including recommendations on ergonomic design of the remote office setting, nutrition and fitness.
Across Germany, our people can take advantage of offerings such as our company fitness program, which encompasses a range of health prevention courses that are subsidized by our company. Moreover, in Darmstadt and Gernsheim, we have a company sports program that currently features 33 different types of athletic activity.
In 2020, we continued our Training Island project. Featuring buses converted into mobile gyms, participants are able to work out twice a week with a professional trainer in close proximity to their workplace. The program is designed in particular to prevent musculoskeletal disorders while also educating employees about exercise and nutrition. In March 2020, we had to suspend this offer due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, in its place, we offered the option of personal training sessions via video chat.
In Taiwan, we offer an array of fitness programs under the banner of “Enrich your health deposit”. Our site in Gillingham (United Kingdom) has an initiative in place that encourages employees to cycle to work and do something good for their health. In Tokyo (Japan), we offer special anti-stress programs to promote employee mental health.
We regularly assess the ergonomics of individual workstations, taking appropriate measures as required. Our employees also receive training on occupational ergonomics tailored to specific areas, whether manufacturing, administration, laboratories or when working from home. Moreover, we offer employees at many sites the opportunity to participate in special ergonomics training courses such as the Industrial Athlete program in the United States, which helps employees improve their physical and general well-being.
Examinations and support for our employees
Our Physical Ability Test and Health Preservation process allows us to ensure that all employees meet the health requirements for their particular tasks and duties. Due to new laws and stricter data privacy requirements, only some of our employees are required to undergo pre-hiring physicals and physical aptitude examinations. In light of these changes, we have adapted our approach. Our Travel Health & Medical Advisory Service, another program we offer, assists employees who spend time abroad on company business, providing them with recommendations on necessary vaccinations and advice on hygiene risks.
Rising to the challenges of demographic change
We expect the average age within our Group to continue to rise in the coming years. In Germany, we are responding to this trend by designing workspaces that help employees stay healthy and physically fit, thereby maintaining their performance. To inform our approach, we utilize an analysis tool that takes demographic shifts into account by assessing various age-related stress factors, which in turn enables us to adapt our workplaces to suit the needs of older individuals. Furthermore, we also offer innovative shift models and a prevention program for shift workers.
To cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, we have established global and local work groups to develop risk scenarios and action plans. Among other measures, we have set up internal Covid-19 testing centers at Darmstadt and other sites, where our business critical employees undergo regular testing or have access to special testing in cases of suspected infection.
Enhanced protective measures
During the pandemic, we have developed special occupational safety standards for numerous sites covering all functional units (offices, laboratories and manufacturing facilities). We have used our intranet along with notice boards to keep our workforce informed of specific behavioral protocols.
To mitigate our employees’ risk of infection during the pandemic, we have been offering them personal protective equipment (PPE). A special PPE work group has ensured that the equipment be distributed in the correct quantity according to specific needs. For instance, we shipped face masks for personal and work use to the home addresses of our employees working at the Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites.
In 2020, we furthermore tightened up our travel guidelines Group-wide in order to protect our workforce.
In India and Italy, for instance, we expanded our insurance coverage to ensure additional financial support for hospital stays.