We take responsibility for the health and safety of our employees every single day, especially when faced with unexpected challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Because we want to prevent health issues from even arising in the first place, we do a great deal to safeguard our people against both accidents and work-related illnesses.
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 health and safety culture to the next level.
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 hours worked. We track the LTIR globally for both employees and supervised temporary staff. In 2021, we set a new workplace accident reduction target, specifically to bring our LTIR below 1.0 by 2025.
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 chances of problems arising and their potential impacts. Such hazard assessments are the responsibility of our individual sites and are therefore conducted by them.
Through the efforts of our Health Management (HM) unit, we are bolstering our company and health culture at Darmstadt and Gernsheim. To verify the efficacy of Health Management initiatives and programs, we have developed a performance indicator system based on data such as the health-related responses from our annual anonymous Employee Engagement Survey. We use this survey to calculate our work-balance index and our healthiness index, which should reflect the general state of health of our workforce worldwide and their ability to manage the demands of their professional and personal lives. These indices allow us to assess the data at team level (groups of at least ten), a minimum threshold that enables us to protect people’s anonymity. In 2021, we introduced an overarching health question to the survey to document and track our company’s health culture and its development in the coming years.
Besides the health-related responses from our employee survey, Health Management at our Darmstadt site also makes use of the findings from our company insurance fund’s health report, along with evaluations from our Site Medical Center. We utilize all of this input both to create target group-specific or unit-specific prevention programs as well as to advise local leadership. When specific indicators such as workplace stress start rising, Health Management meets with the respective units to discuss ways to rectify the situation.
In the coming years, we will continue to focus particularly on shift work, mental health issues and demographic change. In addition, we plan to identify areas in which certain illnesses occur frequently so that we can take targeted steps to eliminate the root causes.
Roles and responsibilities
Our Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) management system is the responsibility of Corporate Sustainability, Quality and Trade Compliance, which reports to the Chair of the Executive Board. This Group function sets objectives, globally oversees the respective initiatives, and conducts internal EHS audits, while local EHS managers and their teams see to it that our individual sites comply with all occupational health and safety laws and regulations. They are also responsible for local projects, campaigns and programs.
Employees worried about their health or safety are permitted to temporarily step back from their work until the issue has been resolved. Across the Group, they are encouraged to report such concerns via our compliance hotline.
At our Darmstadt site, we also have safety councils and committees that convene 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. After implementing each measure, the 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 with interdisciplinary support from a single source. In addition to this service, we offer a telephone hotline in all 66 countries in which we operate, giving our employees and their relatives access to confidential counseling services around the clock.
Safety delegates and health partners
At our sites worldwide, we have safety delegates 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.
At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites as well as several other German facilities, 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 a safety delegate or health partner.
Our commitment: Policies and company agreements
Defining our principles and strategies for environment, health and safety (EHS), our Corporate 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.
To complement this policy, our Contractor EHS Management standard helps us ensure that our contractors adhere to environment, health and safety requirements throughout the entire process, from starting a job to completion.
At our sites in Germany, we abide by company agreements on occupational health and safety that have been drawn up in partnership with employee representatives. 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 document aims to retain an employee’s position while also helping to prevent adverse health impacts after the respective employee returns to work.
We also have occupational health and safety company agreements in place at 13 other sites in Europe. These cover all those activities required to comply with national occupational safety regulations, such as workplace hazard assessments and regular occupational safety surveys. These company agreements also include local health services and programs for our employees.
Safety certification at our sites
As part of a group certificate, our occupational health and safety management system was ISO 45001-certified at 46 sites at the end of 2021. At 45 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 employees, who do not work in operating units, as well as all other non-certified sites are safeguarded by our company’s global integrated management system, which covers EHS requirements. 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.
Our employees are required to immediately report any relevant occupational accidents to Corporate Sustainability, Quality and Trade Compliance, 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.
We track the following occupational safety data across our sites worldwide:
- The LTIR measures the accidents resulting in at least one day of missed work per one million hours worked. In 2021, our LTIR was 1.2, an improvement over 2020 (1.3). 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 2021, we once more recorded no fatal accidents.
- We use our Environment, Health and Safety Incident Rate (EHS IR) to track accidents.
- Alongside this indicator, we also use the Occupational Illness Rate in the United States to monitor work-related illnesses and their long-term effects.
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 not only educate our employees on occupational health and safety, but actively engage them in our efforts. For instance, we invite them to participate in inspections and involve them in selecting 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. Despite the ongoing pandemic, in 2021 we managed to integrate four legacy Versum sites into “BeSafe!”, conducting the training online. In addition, we regularly provide occupational safety training at our sites covering both legal requirements as well as the specific local risks.
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 have a standard operating procedure in place 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 all our Health Management services, which cover topics such as ergonomics, nutrition, stress, and mental health issues. In addition, we are tackling demographic change by utilizing a tool to asses various age-related stressors, which in turn enables us to adapt our workplaces to suit the needs of older individuals.
Protective measures and vaccination campaigns
Our measures to protect our employees against Covid-19 at our sites in Darmstadt and Gernsheim are based on three pillars:
- Testing: By the end of December 2021, we had performed approximately 35,000 antigen rapid tests at our in-house company testing centers.
- Walk-in clinic for cold symptoms: Since November 2020, employees with unclear complaints and symptoms have been able to consult the walk-in clinic for cold symptoms for advice on how to best protect themselves and colleagues and to prevent infection.
- Vaccinating: In February 2021, our Site Medical Center initiated a Covid-19 vaccination campaign at the Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites. It started with personnel involved in the production of lipids, which are an important component of mRNA vaccines. Over the summer, we expanded the vaccination campaign initially to all other employees and later to their family members. By the end of December 2021, we had administered more than 17,800 vaccine doses to our employees in Darmstadt and Gernsheim as well as their families.
We also offered vaccinations to employees at other sites, such as those in India and Indonesia.
In addition to Covid-19 vaccinations, we also offered flu shots to employees at our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites in autumn 2021, vaccinating more than 2,600 employees.
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. Additionally, in Darmstadt and Gernsheim, we have a company sports program that currently features 33 different athletic activities.
Step-counter fitness campaign and health app
We want to encourage our employees across all our sites to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle and, especially in the era of Covid-19, to promote social interaction with one another. Approximately 16,000 employees have downloaded a health app that offers a variety of health-related information on topics such as stress, nutrition and social contact. In 2021, we also held two step counter races that motivated around 13,300 employees to get physically active together. Using the health app, team participants tracked their physical performance based on their step count. As an additional incentive, we tied the number of steps taken in the second pedometer race to donations to charities. Altogether, participants walked their way to € 100,000, € 70,000 of which went to Save the Children and € 30,000 of which went to local charitable causes chosen by the winning teams.
In March 2021, our Global Healthcare Operations (GHO) unit kicked off its “Feel well” initiative. Over a period of seven months, GHO staff participated in webinars in which experts advised them on how to enhance their well-being and eliminate stress. They also took a closer look at topics such as personal habits, sleep and slowing down. In total, more than 1,000 GHO employees participated in the events. Afterwards, the materials were posted on the intranet so that the participants and all other employees could access them and take steps to prevent stress-induced illnesses.
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. Depending on the job profile, some of our employees undergo pre-hiring physicals and physical aptitude examinations. Our Travel Health & Medical Advisory Service assists employees who spend time abroad, providing them with recommendations on necessary vaccinations and advice on hygiene risks.