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Safety and Health
ALTANA acts according to the “safety first” principle and 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 2021, too, 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. This year, too, we succeeded in keeping the number of occupational accidents at our sites at a low level, thus achieving our ambitious safety targets once again. ACTEGA was again able to significantly reduce the figure, while BYK and ECKART recorded an increase. ELANTAS succeeded in keeping the number of occupational accidents low.
Some sites and companies are particularly distinguished by their occupational safety: BYK and ELANTAS in Tongling, ECKART Zhuhai, and ELANTAS Beck India in Pune have been accident free for at least ten years. ACTEGA Foshan and ELANTAS Zhuhai have gone more than five years without an accident (nine years and five years, respectively). Another five sites have been accident free for at least 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, we consistently pursued the safety measures introduced in the previous year and adapted them to the respective situation. As a result, the virus was unable to spread more widely at any of our sites in the reporting year. This was due not only to the selfdiscipline of our employees, but also to the safety culture that is firmly anchored at ALTANA. And it is confirmation that the measures we took early on were the right ones. The crisis teams at the company, division, and Group levels create a clear decision-making and communication structure. In addition, all relevant information, regulations, and recommendations for dealing with the coronavirus are available centrally on an overview page on ALTANA’s Intranet.
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 people who could work from home, but also, and more importantly, to protect employees who continued to work at the respective site due to their job profile.
Travel was kept to a minimum. Work meetings were held predominantly in virtual space. Appropriate hygiene concepts were drawn up for major internal and external events. Depending on the situation, some events were postponed, canceled, or held digitally as a precaution. These included larger customer events staged as online seminars.
Ergonomics make an important contribution to occupational health and safety. Workplaces and activities designed appropriately increase the productivity of the workforce and reduce absences due to illness. For example, ECKART uses lighter drum covers at its Painesville site in the U.S., resulting in a weight reduction from 17 kg to 7 kg. This makes it easier to change the covers and prevents overloading of the arms. The commissioning of an automatic packaging facility at the same site significantly reduces manual work while simultaneously increasing productivity.
ALTANA again invested in lifting aids in the year under review. ACTEGA introduced appropriate lifting aids for drums at the U.S. site in Charlotte and for bags and containers at its site in Spain. ELANTAS in Quattordio (Italy) implemented improvements in the handling of can containers, making it easier to move the containers both in production and in the warehouse. In addition, ELANTAS established a new, lighter container type in response to customer requests.
Ergonomics is incorporated directly into the planning of new buildings and new plants. For example, ELANTAS in Malaysia uses filling systems on newly installed reactors that can handle bagged containers in the 500 kg to 1,000 kg range with ease. At its U.S. site in Schererville, ECKART invested in a new type of centrifuge technology, which, in addition to having improved ergonomics, also ensures even greater process reliability. In the Netherlands, BYK in Deventer relies on improved grinding technology, thereby reducing the physically very strenuous work in this area.
Especially in times of the coronavirus pandemic, exercise is very important. ELANTAS in Hamburg came up with something special. Employees were invited to take a virtual tour of northern Germany. Instead of visiting the respective locations individually or as a group in person, an app counted the steps actually taken, for example during a “mobile lunch break,” and transferred them to a virtual map. The 21 participants covered a total of 12,219 km, with an average of 10,154 steps per day.
During the coronavirus pandemic with the continued increase in mobile work, it is often difficult to actively organize breaks. BYK therefore offered all employees at its Wesel, Schkopau, Kempen, and Moosburg sites online courses for physical and mental relaxation. These invigorating breaks have proven to enhance concentration and performance.
Reducing Exposure and Avoiding Risks
As described in the “Products” chapter, ALTANA replaces critical substances with non-critical ones whenever possible. If this is not feasible, we do everything we can to minimize the respective risk of exposure.
In the year under review, ELANTAS installed a new containment system at its Hamburg site. In combination with the tanks set up last year, isocyanates can now be handled entirely in closed systems. Similar concepts were also implemented at the division’s Italian sites in Ascoli and Quattordio, enabling raw materials such as cresol or styrene to be processed even more effectively. BYK continued to drive forward the automation of dosing processes at its Dutch sites in Denekamp, Deventer, and Nijverdal. In the U.S., ECKART installed a new sandblasting facility in Painesville, which eliminates the need for manual cleaning of rotor blades. Also, solvent baths for cleaning are no longer needed.
Safety in Chemical Processes
In addition to avoiding exposure on the part of people and the environment, process safety is also a focus during filling operations. When adding solids, in particular, care is taken to ensure that this is done in closed systems with a suitable inert gas atmosphere.
BYK set up new dosing systems for the solids feeding at several sites. Different systems are required, since different materials have a different flow behavior and requirement profile. For example, one solid may be quite sticky while another is powdery and free-flowing. At its Painesville site, ECKART changed the monitoring system for the solids silos. This allows the plant operator to better control the filling process. And ACTEGA installed an extensive safety rack in the solids feeding area at its Sedan site in France. The move has significantly increased storage capacity and enhanced process reliability. A small step with a big effect.
ELANTAS expanded its production and laboratory space in Collecchio by more than 1,400 square meters. In addition to logistical aspects, this also improved the operational process steps.
At several sites, the divisions introduced improvements in heating, cooling, and stirring processes. A major focus was also on safety-controlled measurement and control technology. To identify further optimization opportunities, interdisciplinary teams work together at all sites to look at the various aspects and make a risk-oriented assessment. In this way, ALTANA is always one step ahead when it comes to safety.
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 19 significant incidents in the year under review. 18 incidents involved the release of chemicals, and another incident involved a fire. In one of the cases, there was a minor spill of a chemical leading to soil contamination. The contaminated soil was removed and disposed of properly. No persons were injured in any of the incidents.