Safety and Health

ALTANA relies on an effective safety culture. Technical and organizational measures as well as our training programs contribute to enhancing work safety and anchoring the issue firmly in our employees’ minds. In 2020, protecting the health of all our employees in the face of the coronavirus pandemic was the focus of our activities.

Occupational safety and occupational health protection are top priorities at ALTANA. In 2020, we managed to further reduce the number of reported occupational accidents significantly at our sites and thus once again achieved our ambitious safety targets.

Some sites are particularly distinguished by their occupational safety: BYK Tongling and ELANTAS Beck India in Pimpri have been accident free for more than twelve years. The ECKART Zhuhai site has been accident free for at least ten years. The following sites have not seen any accidents for more than five years: ELANTAS Tongling (nine years), ACTEGA Foshan (eight years), and ECKART Suisse (five years). ACTEGA do Brasil (Santana de Parnaíba), BYK USA (Chester), and ELANTAS Zhuhai have been without any accidents for more than three years. Further facts and figures can be found in the Group Management Report.

Measures Taken in Connection with the Coronavirus Pandemic

In coping with the coronavirus pandemic in the year under review, we were able to build on the safety culture we had already established. The fact that the virus has not spread significantly at any of our sites shows that we not only adopted the right precautionary measures, but that these are also being implemented by our employees worldwide with a great deal of self-discipline.

From the very beginning, crisis teams were formed at Group, divisional, and company level, and a clear decision-making and communication structure was created. Depending on the situation, important decisions were made and framework conditions defined in a short time. ALTANA set up an overview page on the Intranet where all relevant information, regulations, and recommendations for dealing with the coronavirus are available centrally, including questions and answers (FAQ).

The majority of employees who can perform their respective tasks at home worked from there on a mobile basis. Travel was reduced to a minimum. As far as possible, work meetings were held only in virtual space. To be on the safe side, larger internal and external events were postponed, canceled, or broadcast digitally. This included larger customer events, which were held as online seminars. The annual meeting of safety officers in Germany also took place digitally.

At the sites, not only strict hygiene and distance rules, but also increased use of mobile work reduced the risk of infections being brought in from outside the respective site. Thus, mobile work not only served to protect employees who were able to work at home, but primarily protect staff members who continued to work at the respective site due to their job profile.


In 2020, the topic of “ergonomics” was not only a focus concerning mobile work, but above all with regard to manual activities involving heavy loads or work performed uniformly over a longer period of time. To prevent injuries and long-term adverse effects, ALTANA continued to invest in lifting aids, among other things. For example, ECKART installed a lifting device in the warehouse at its Painesville site that enables employees to carry out transport and cleaning operations more gently and more safely.

The amount of manual cleaning required is also reduced by an ultrasonic centrifuge that was installed at the Wackersdorf site. The centrifuge not only contributes to ergonomics, but also increases productivity.

ELANTAS in Ascoli invested in a filling station with automatic rinsing of organic solvents. The new installation avoids manual cleaning of connecting hoses.

ACTEGA analyzed the workplaces at its new Brazilian site in Araçariguama with regard to safety and ergonomics and adapted them accordingly. ACTEGA Rhenania launched a health program called “Back Fit.” After an introductory talk with a qualified trainer, further training sessions were held at the respective workplace with the aim of preventing harm and injuries due to improper sitting. In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, health courses such as Back Fit and yoga were offered online and some of the annual Safety and Health Days carried out as digital impulse lectures. The newsletter “SAFETY @ ALTANA” provided information on how to work ergonomically, healthily, and safely from home.

Safety in Chemical Processes

The risk of accidents and incidents resulting from chemical processes can be significantly reduced by regularly and systematically checking the respective process steps. This applies not only to the handling of chemical substances, but also to typical process steps in operations such as heating, cooling, and stirring.

BYK was able to significantly improve process safety, especially for reactions that release a lot of heat, by introducing a reaction mixing pump at the Kempen site. This process ensures very effective cooling of the reaction mixture.

ECKART installed more temperature sensors at its Painesville site, especially in the mills. This allows unforeseen temperature increases to be detected promptly and appropriate measures to be initiated.

Inert gases, such as nitrogen, are used in the chemical industry to prevent uncontrolled ignitions caused by electrostatic charges. But these protective gases can pose a danger to employees if there is accidental leakage, for example in production halls. For this reason, oxygen sensors were installed in the mill room at the ECKART site in Schererville, among others. At the same site, process safety was further enhanced with additional measures. For example, an alarm system was installed in the event of accidental spills, and spill prevention was installed in tank farms.

Furthermore, ALTANA continued to invest in protecting employees from critical substances (for example dusts and VOCs) in the year under review. Among other things, existing ventilation systems at ECKART in Wackersdorf and at ELANTAS in Zhuhai were improved.

Communication as a Success Factor

Information and communication play a decisive role in bolstering an effective safety culture. Accidents that occur with significant frequency and relevance are, for example, presented in the global ALTANA staff magazine together with strategies for their prevention.

In Germany, BYK has been cooperating since 2017 with the German Employers’ Liability Insurance Association for the Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG RCI) on “Vision Zero,” a program whose aim is to prevent accidents completely. Since that time, occupational safety performance has not only been gauged via the conventional indicators (WAI 1 – 3), but has also been further developed in an occupational safety program, the “Vision Zero Roadmap.” Key activities are assigned to the Vision Zero success factors and communicated transparently to all employees. With regard to the success factor “Danger recognized – danger averted,” BYK introduced a new electronic reporting system for accidents and near misses in the reporting year. This enables near-accidents to be identified in a timely manner, prompt measures to be implemented, and thus accidents to be avoided.

ACTEGA DS in Bremen established the “Vision Zero” working group in mid-2019. By the end of the reporting year, the company had gone more than 500 days without registering an accident with lost work time. This milestone was achieved by means of various measures, including the targeted involvement of employees in safety discussions, occupational safety training, an examination of workplace ergonomics, the establishment of binding rules for managers and employees, and the introduction of work facilitators, for example vacuum lifters and high-lift trucks. A new e-learning platform is used to train not only the company’s own employees on occupational safety, but also staff of contractors. With the implementation of further measures, ACTEGA DS is striving for the BG RCI quality seal “Sicher mit System” (Safe with System).

At most of ALTANA’s production sites, so-called safety talks are held regularly during the different shifts to raise employees’ awareness of the issue of safety. New production employees receive intensive training as part of their induction so that they can act safely right from the start. In addition, ACTEGA continued its cooperation on the topic of “behavior-based safety culture” with an external partner at its Grevenbroich site. In view of the extremely positive experience to date, similar coaching sessions are also planned at other sites.

ECKART introduced an electronic alert system at its Painesville site. In the event of an emergency, it informs all employees by text message or e-mail.

Incidents in Detail

Based on the instructions for reporting on globally harmonized process safety key figures in accordance with the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) and the definition provided by the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), there were 13 significant incidents in the year under review.

Twelve incidents involved the release of chemicals, and one incident involved a fire. None of the incidents had an impact on the environment and no employees were injured.