Plant and process safety has high priority at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Safety system failures can lead to the release of chemicals, which can in turn impact people and the environment as well as result in financial damage, such as from production stoppages.
The function Environment Health Safety Security Quality (EQ), in charge of environmental protection, are the experts in plant and process safety guidelines as well as all related topics. At the individual Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany sites worldwide, local EHS managers have been appointed to handle issues pertaining to plant and process safety.
We apply the same uniform standard to plant and process safety across the globe. Our Group-wide “Plant and Process Safety” standard mandates safety-related requirements to be applied to the entire life cycle of a plant – including construction, normal operation, modifications, maintenance, repair, and shutdown. This standard applies to production plants and warehouses. Before a plant goes on line, a safety concept is always developed for each plant, which is then continuously updated. It contains an overview of potential risks and the corresponding protective measures.
The Group-wide standard “Spillage Control” defines the organizational measures for preventing spillage during storage and transport, and also details how to handle hazardous materials. The Group-wide standard operating procedure “Risk Management Process” defines how to identify and assess risks, as well as how to develop and implement measures to minimize them.
In order to continuously identify potential for improvement, we assess the plant and process safety for each site using the EHS performance indicators. This gives us a comprehensive overview of safety at our sites. Here, we use lagging indicators to analyze incidents retrospectively and leading indicators to make a perspective analysis of near-incidents.
Data on spillage at our plants are evaluated using process safety indicators and are also incorporated into the overarching EHS indicators. In 2011, we registered 41 substance spills in total due to incidents at 108 production, research and storage sites. In 2012, 36 incidents were registered at 107 sites. Each individual incident was investigated at the respective site. Appropriate countermeasures were taken in order to prevent the same scenario – or a similar one – from recurring. Information on the incidents is regularly communicated so that all production sites can learn from the situation and implement preventive measures.
Since plant and process safety involves the interaction of man and machine, we consider it highly important for our employees to be well-trained and to receive further training on a regular basis. In 2012, a new internal continuing education program was set up for site managers – as well as for production, engineering and EHS managers at the individual sites – and rolled out within the Chemicals divisions. The primary topics here included systematic risk identification in processing plants, explosion protection, and static electricity.