The safety of our plants and processes is a key function of our management systems for environmental stewardship and occupational health and safety, allowing us to protect both our employees while on the job as well as the people in the immediate vicinity of our sites. Besides management systems, we also have high-performance safety systems in place to 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 spills, which is why we regularly review our approach to plant and process safety. Our EHS performance indicators (see “Keeping a close eye on safety”) are utilized to continuously gauge our safety performance and practices. We train our employees regularly in an effort to prevent human error and also to detect technical defects before they can cause harm.
How we organize our plant and process safety
Our Group Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) function coordinates plant and process safety within our company. At the operational level, this is handled by our individual site directors with support from their local EHS managers/coordinators.
Further information can be found under Environmental stewardship.
Our commitment: Standards and legislation
Setting forth the safety rules for all production plants and warehouses, our Group-wide EHS Plant and Process Safety standard covers the entire life cycle of a plant, from planning and construction to operation, retooling, servicing, and maintenance through to decommissioning. Our EHS Spillage Control standard governs the handling of hazardous materials Group-wide and stipulates organizational requirements to prevent toxic substances from spilling or leaking during storage and transport. Our Fire Protection standard provides our sites with a clear framework of fire protection requirements.
Alongside these standards, our Risk Management Process guides all our sites in identifying and assessing risks and is used to devise further measures to minimize them. Our Group Procedure Hazard and Operability Study defines the individuals responsible for pinpointing potential hazards during new plant construction, plant retooling or safety-related plant modifications; it also outlines the manner in which these dangers should be assessed and documented.
Assessing potential risks
Before commissioning a plant, we draft a safety concept that is then 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. After any alterations are made to a plant, we also reassess the hazard and risk situation. At our Darmstadt site, we revised our plant safety concept in 2020 to incorporate the latest recommendations from the German Commission on Process Safety (KAS).
We conduct internal EHS audits (see Environmental stewardship) to verify the safety of our plants and processes. Our sites are required to rectify any deficiencies discovered during the audit, with the auditor then checking whether the specified corrective actions have been taken.
Keeping a close eye on safety
We track EHS performance indicators at all production and warehouse facilities, as well as at major research sites, including both accidents and near misses. We investigate each individual incident and then devise appropriate countermeasures in an effort to reduce the likelihood of such events reoccurring in the future. EHS performance indicator data are reported once a month within each business sector, with the Executive Board receiving reports on the topic once a year. Five indicators are particularly important to us here:
- Under our EHS Incident Rate (EHS IR, see below), we track and evaluate all major and minor accidents and incidents.
- The EHS IR also includes our Loss of Primary Containment (LoPC) indicator.
- Also important is the EHS Leading Rate (EHS LR), which is calculated based on an analysis of near misses and critical situations. Some of our individual business sectors have also defined their own annual targets for EHS IR and EHS LR.
- In the United States, we additionally use the Occupational Illness Rate (OIR) to track work-related illnesses and their long-term effects.
- Our goal was to stabilize our Lost Time Injury Rate (LTIR) – the number of accidents Group-wide resulting in at least one missed day of work per million man-hours) at 1.5 Group-wide by 2020. We exceeded our objective, having achieved an LTIR of 1,3 in 2020.
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 data:
- 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 instance 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 third-party reviews and audits conducted by regulatory agencies and/or our certifiers
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 was 3.4 in 2020, representing a slight decrease compared to 2019 (3.6).
In 2020, 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 smooth interplay of man and machine. We provide our employees with regular plant and process safety training and offer internal continuing education to site, production, engineering, and EHS leaders. Likewise, we train all newly hired EHS managers on plant and process safety (see Environmental stewardship) during their EHStart-up! onboarding.
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 take 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 discussion sessions to benefit from each other’s experiences.
In line with the stipulations of the German Hazardous Incident Ordinance, our safety reports are fully accessible to the public upon request. At our Darmstadt 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 accompanying Incident Brochure, which we update every three years and send to approximately 17,000 households in the vicinity of our global headquarters. This document is also available on our website.