The safety of our plants and processes is a key element of our environmental stewardship efforts. This approach allows us to protect both our workforce and the people in the vicinity of our sites. Furthermore, high-performance safety systems help minimize production errors, which in turn lowers the risk of financial losses.
Our approach to plant and process safety
We seek to eliminate manufacturing hazards wherever possible in order to prevent workplace accidents, production outages and chemical leaks. We train our employees regularly in an effort to minimize human errors and also to detect technical defects before they have a chance to cause damage.
How we organize our plant and process safety
Our Group function Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) oversees plant and process safety within our company (Environmental stewardship), while at the operational level this responsibility falls to our individual sites and their EHS managers. Fire protection is paramount to the safety of our plants and processes.
We conduct internal EHS audits to review the safety of our plants and processes. During this process we also evaluate selected 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, as are our own facilities, with the auditor verifying whether the specified corrective actions have been taken.
Our commitment: Standards and legislation
All our sites are subject to the same requirements for plant and process safety as set forth by our Group-wide EHS Plant and Process Safety standard, which describes the safety rules for all production plants and warehouses. This document encompasses the entire life cycle of a plant from cradle to grave. 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 measures 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. As needed, this process can be used to develop and implement measures to minimize such risks. Since 2016, the Group Procedure Hazard and Operability Study has clearly defined the individuals responsible for pinpointing potential hazards during a project as well as the manner in which hazards should be identified and documented.
The 2012 EU directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances (aka Seveso III) was transposed into German law at the end of 2016 and entered into force on January 14, 2017. Numerous amendments to this directive have affected regulations such as the German Hazardous Incident Ordinance (aka 12th BImSchV). In response to these amendments, in 2017 we updated the existing processes and documents on the assessment and communication of potential hazards posed by our production plants and warehouses. On request, members of the public may access our revised safety documentation at any time. We furthermore fulfill our obligation to keep the public informed through forums such as neighborhood meetings, where residents learn about the potential hazards of industrial accidents, common accident scenarios, and the measures needed to prevent or mitigate their consequences. Further information is contained in our Hazardous Incident Brochure, which we update on a three-year basis and send to approximately 17,000 households in the vicinity of our Darmstadt site. The brochure 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 such as Billerica (Massachusetts, USA) and Chilworth (United Kingdom). In doing so, we record both accidents and near misses. We investigate each individual incident before devising appropriate countermeasures in an effort to prevent such accidents from repeating themselves in the future.
When it comes to performance indicators, we attach particular importance to the EHS Incident Rate (EHS IR) for recording and evaluating all minor and major incidents, along with the associated 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.
In 2018, the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) jointly resolved to tighten the reporting thresholds of incidents such as near misses. We expect that this will result in more incidents being reported going forward.
In collaboration with our individual business sectors, we have defined specific targets for our EHS performance indicators. The Executive Board receives semi-annual reports detailing the progress of these indicators.
EHS Incident Rate
Since 2013 we have been tracking the EHS Incident Rate, an indicator that synthesizes the following four categories 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 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.
was our EHS IR in 2018, which represents a slight decrease compared to the previous year’s result (2017: 3.4).
In 2018, we recorded no significant incident-related spills across all production, research and warehouse sites.
Risk Management Process
Our Risk Management Process guides all our sites in identifying and assessing risks. As part of this process, for instance, we conducted a comprehensive audit of our Performance Materials site in Suzhou (China) following its acquisition in 2014. We subsequently took steps to address the shortcomings identified in the audit, all of which we successfully completed in the course of 2018.
Training and sharing lessons learned
The safety of our plants and processes is predicated on the successful interaction between man and machine, which is why it is crucial for us to educate our employees and provide them with regular training. Our internal continuing education programs for site, production, engineering, and EHS officers also cover plant and process safety. Likewise, we also train newly hired EHS managers in plant and process safety during their onboarding. In 2018, 23 new employees completed the onboarding process.
In the interest of improving safety, it is extremely important to share best practices and lessons learned, an approach that enables all our production sites to learn from incidents at other facilities and thereby implement preventive measures. Once a month, for instance, site directors and EHS managers participate in safety leadership calls to share new lessons learned. Additionally, regular discussion rounds are held by the EHS managers at our sites.