Occupational Health & Safety
We continue to pursue excellence in occupational health and safety to better protect our employees, contractors, neighbors and the environment from hazards.
Our employees are our most valuable asset, and it is our responsibility as an employer to provide a safe work environment and promote wellness across the workforce. This focus on health and safety has been deeply engrained in our company throughout its history and serves as a central theme in our culture. Our goal is for all employees to return home in the same condition as when they arrived at work. We also strive to help employees lead healthy lifestyles, through a variety of initiatives and benefits.
We believe that a strong safety culture contributes to the overall success of our business. It allows us to retain talent, remain operational and serve our customers as a reliable partner. As a result, we are diligent in measuring and monitoring our related performance. In 2018, we were pleased to see a decline of nearly 15% in the total recordable incident rate across the organization compared with the previous year. However, we saw a small increase in the total number of lost workdays associated with workplace injuries.
Our safety priorities in 2018 included the expansion of our Safety Leadership Training program around the world. This training helps develop the skills of our frontline leaders and enables them to better coach their teams on safety expectations and performance. We also expanded the use of location-specific safety improvement plans, which identify safety priorities for the year with a focus on continuous improvement. Through regular communication among our plants on their plans, we are enabling better sharing of best practices and ideas to address common safety challenges. To further our progress on our Drive to Zero, we held training for employees in multiple disciplines across all our regions on improved root cause analysis methods. We know that by continuing to develop our ability to learn from the incidents and near misses we experience, we will be able to make progress on our goal to send all our employees, contractors and visitors home safe, each and every day.
We have remained consistent in the occurrence rates of total recordable incidents and lost time. We did not experience any employee or contractor fatalities in the listed years.
We conduct a thorough evaluation of every incident, including "high potential near misses," to understand the root cause of such incidents and assess how we may implement measures to avoid similar safety risks in the future across our global operations. Throughout the years, these incident learnings and our strong safety culture have kept us an industry leader in safety performance and we will always focus on continuous improvement to achieve our goal of zero incidents.
In 2018, we undertook a project to refresh our approach to process safety management so that we may better track our performance and identify opportunities for improvement in our program. In accordance with this effort, we have revisited and updated our approach for how we categorize Tier 1 and Tier 2 process safety events to ensure we report such events as accurately and transparently as possible. Previously, these classifications were considered only for incidents that were reported according to our internal definitions for environmental nonconformances, recordable injuries or significant process safety events. However, we realized a more thorough and accurate approach should also take into account other process safety events that were less significant than those originally considered, which resulted in updates to the historical Tier 1 and Tier 2 classifications.
Last year, we experienced three Tier 1 events and 10 Tier 2 events. The Tier 1 events included a material release from a relief valve, a release within a process area and a process fire. There were no injuries as a result of these events. The majority of Tier 2 events were related to incidents including chemical releases, most of which were captured within secondary containment, minimizing the impact to the environment. To provide an additional level of focus in our process safety management program, we introduced a series of leading performance indicators that we believe will help us prevent future incidents. These indicators track on-time completion of our process hazard analysis plans as well as closure of corrective actions from events and process safety audits.
USA Benefits Team launches successful well-being program
We know that paying attention to our employees’ overall health and wellness can contribute to our goal to keep our employees safe. With that in mind, we launched our You Matter well-being program at USA-based facilities.
In the program’s first year, more than 50% of our USA employees participated in activities ranging from biometric screenings and health risk assessments to mindfulness activities and exercise challenges. The program has brought positive changes to participants’ overall health by helping them better manage stress, increase their physical activity and improve their sleep habits. We are proud that the New England Employee Benefit Council has recognized the You Matter program with a Best Practices Award for design and communication.
Wuhai construction project completed without a recordable incident
The critical role of safety in our culture is exemplified through our safety efforts during construction of our new fumed silica manufacturing facility in Wuhai, China.
From the start of the project to its recent completion, safety was a key focus for our teams. We completed the project having achieved nearly 1.6 million work hours without a recordable injury amongst our employees and contractors. In 2018 alone, nearly 750,000 work hours were completed injury-free. This performance is attributed to strong safety management and implementation, which included a high level of risk assessment, detailed safety plans and contractor supervision, optimization of construction resources, and thorough safety training. The safety culture of zero incidents has been deeply rooted in the minds of all personnel and has helped demonstrate our commitment to safety to the surrounding community and our industry peers.
Training Leaders on Safety Management
We continue to invest in our employees through training in a variety of areas, including safety.
In 2017, we rolled out two-day workshops focusing on practical safety leadership skills to over 700 leaders across the globe. This program was initiated in North America in 2016 and expanded to South America and Europe in 2017, with plans to reach our entire global network by the end of 2018. The program provides frontline leaders with a set of employee engagement tools and coaching methods that have been proven to show superior safety results, including the use of questioning techniques, case studies and practical exercises. The workshops focus on topics such as the critical role played by leaders, the value of personally surveying the site, addressing incorrect behaviors and recognizing and reinforcing positive actions.
Sharing Process Safety Information and Strategies
We perform Process Hazard Analyses (PHAs) to mitigate safety risks in our operations. PHAs are conducted regularly at our facilities to assess the risks and potential impacts of equipment or operational malfunctions.
To best utilize the information learned from these analyses, we developed an ongoing program of webinars to connect those conducting PHAs, giving them the opportunity to receive training on PHA techniques, share best practices and discuss challenges.