Plant and process safety is of great significance to Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. Failed safety systems can lead to chemical spillage, which can in turn adversely impact people and the environment. This can also result in financial damage from issues such as production stoppages. One of our top goals is therefore to prevent production disruptions that can cause workplace accidents and chemical leaks.
We apply the same uniform standard to plant and process safety across the globe. Our Group-wide standard "Plant and Process Safety" mandates safety-related requirements be applied to the entire life cycle of a plant - including construction, normal operation, modifications, maintenance, repair, and shutdown. This standard applies to all production plants and warehouses. A safety concept is always developed for each plant before the plant is commissioned. Continuously revised and updated, this concept contains an overview of potential risks (e.g. fires, explosions, substance leakage into the environment) as well as the corresponding protective measures. The Group-wide standard "Spillage Control" defines organizational measures for preventing spillage during storage and transport, and also details how to handle hazardous materials. We furthermore have a Group-wide "Risk Management Process" operating procedure that specifies how to identify and assess risks, as well as how to develop and implement measures to minimize them.
The Group function EQ (see ) is in charge of environmental protection and is the expert in plant and process safety guidelines as well as all related topics. At our individual sites worldwide, local EHS managers are appointed to handle environmental issues pertaining to plant and process safety.
In order to continuously identify potential for improvement, we regularly assess the plant and process safety of each site using EHS performance indicators, which gives us a comprehensive overview of safety at our sites. Accidents are evaluated retrospectively using lagging indicators, and potential future situations are identified using leading indicators, which are based on factors such as near-accidents and identified areas of improvement.
These comprehensive EHS performance indicators consist of a variety of data. For instance, since 2013 we have been tracking the EHS Incident Rate, an indicator that synthesizes the following data: the number of workplace accidents involving our employees and contractors who work at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany sites; environmentally relevant incidents (e.g. product spills); activation of operational safety systems without an adverse impact on people and the environment (e.g. preventive system shutdown), and deviations identified in the course of external reviews and audits. For these indicators, product spills are defined according to a concept developed by the European Chemical Industry Council () and the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI).
Across all production, research and storage sites, we registered a total of 44 incident-related substance spills in 2013. Thanks to improved plant and process safety, we only recorded 26 incidents across all sites in 2014. We investigate each individual incident at the respective site and take appropriate countermeasures in order to prevent the same scenario - or a similar one - from recurring. We regularly organize best practice and information sharing sessions so that all our production sites can learn from incidents and implement preventive measures. Of the incident-related spills reported in 2013 and 2014, none resulted in significant environmental pollution.
Since plant and process safety always involves the interaction of man and machine, we consider it highly important for our employees to be well-trained and to receive ongoing training on a regular basis. To this end, in-house training on plant and process safety is regularly conducted at production sites. In 2013 and 2014, two training workshops were offered as part of an internal advanced training program for both site managers as well as for production, engineering and EHS managers from our Life Science and Performance Materials business sectors. The primary topics included systematic risk identification in processing plants, explosion protection, and static electricity.