Workplace and plant safety are vitally important for WACKER. That is why WACKER defines its safety targets together with its executives (in upper and middle management) during its annual target-setting process for Germany.
WACKER’s processes and standards for workplace safety are aligned with the international standards OHSAS 18001 and ISO 45001. Systematic workplace safety includes regular evaluation of hazards and work-area monitoring.
All our employees are given safety training tailored to their particular work areas. WACKER Germany, for example, offers over 40 online courses on occupational safety issues. Topics range from general safety guidelines for office and laboratory workers to instruction on safe behavior in potentially explosive atmospheres and the classification of hazardous materials.
Workplace accident performance is one of the most important non-financial performance indicators. We had set a goal of ensuring that the number of workplace accidents per 1 million hours worked would not exceed 2.0 groupwide in 2020. The accident rate actually achieved in 2020 was 3.0 workplace accidents per 1 million hours worked – a reduction relative to the previous year (3.4. workplace accidents per 1 million hours worked), but still short of our goal for the reporting period.
Very few accidents at WACKER involve chemicals. The most common causes are tripping, slipping, falling and lack of care when performing manual activities. We are not satisfied with our accident rate achieved so far, and we regularly update our workplace safety initiatives.
In November 2020, there was a minor release of hydrogen chloride and steam in a production building at the Charleston (USA) site. During the building’s evacuation in response to the substance release, five external-company employees were injured, one fatally. The incident had no impact beyond the site or on the environment. Among its own employees, WACKER again recorded no fatal workplace accidents in the reporting period.
During the period under review, we continued to revise our protection strategy for compressors, including any necessary retrofitting. We took these measures in response to the findings from the investigation of the 2017 explosion at Charleston, USA. We continued to improve the safety of pipe bridges – focusing on repairing piping prone to corrosion, as well as on labeling and documenting every last pipe bridge.
WACKER Safety Plus
Our WACKER Safety Plus (WSP) program looks at sites with particularly low accident rates and makes use of their successful safety measures, such as safety patrols, emergency drills, and holding discussions with employees. We use WACKER Safety Plus to recognize and avoid unsafe behavior – on the way to and from work, in the office, at the plant, when operating machinery, or when handling chemicals.
We promoted the safety culture practiced at our German sites with various programs in 2019, such as “Cleanliness and Tidiness,” “Avoidance of Distractions Caused by Cellphones” and “Taking ‘Outsiders’ on Inspection Rounds of Your Plant to Spot Any Shortcomings.” We reviewed the way in which key safety regulations are put into practice at our German sites, and updated procedures for issuing safe-work permits. Our BeSmart! campaign had the aim of raising employees’ awareness of the accident risks entailed by using a smartphone while driving.
We regularly hold Safety Days – focused events aimed at informing and motivating employees on safety issues. Our sites at Plzeň (Czech Republic) and Nanjing (China), as well as those at Adrian and Charleston (USA), organized such Safety Days in 2019. In 2020, the year of the pandemic, we held online seminars to raise the awareness of employees for safety risks and highlight accident-prevention measures. KOSHA (Korea Occupational Safety & Health Agency) honored our Ulsan site in South Korea in 2020 for its 20 accident-free years.
WACKER won an e-learning award for a new online site training course. Our sites in Germany offer their partner companies a modern, up-to-date online site training course at www.wacker.com/site-safety. The training has been available in seven languages since the end of 2020. We are preparing versions in more languages.
Protection Against the Spread of Coronavirus
One major task in 2020 was centered on developing and implementing protective measures to stop the coronavirus from spreading at WACKER’s sites. Crisis management teams work together quickly, pragmatically and reliably to keep business processes operational. In this context, our priorities are employee health and ensuring supply continuity for our customers.
We were quick to introduce binding regulations and measures, such as hygiene and social-distancing rules, and a ban on business trips to risk areas. Where feasible, employees work from home as a way of avoiding infection. In work areas that are vital for integrated production and where the prescribed distancing cannot be maintained, our employees wear protective masks. The measures taken have proved successful, with the number of Group employees infected by the coronavirus in the 2020 reporting year remaining low.