We transport and store products and materials worldwide such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals, raw materials, intermediates and waste, as well as technical materials and packaging, all of which could pose a hazard if handled incorrectly.
Our approach to safe transport and storage
We strive for all our shipments to reach our customers and sites safely, undamaged and with the required safety information. Several of the materials we store and transport are classified as hazardous. To prevent danger to people and the environment, we therefore adhere to extremely strict safety regulations across our Group. The storage of such hazardous goods and the corresponding transport involved – whether by road, rail, plane, or ship – are governed by regulations applicable worldwide. We ensure safety and compliance with these rules through our standards, regular audits of our sites and employee training.
How we achieve transport and warehouse safety
Transport and warehouse safety falls under our Group function Environment, Health, Safety, Security, Quality (EQ) (see Environmental stewardship), which sets Group-wide standards and guidelines. In addition, our individual sites are subject to various national and international regulations governing environmental stewardship and public safety, which local site directors are responsible for implementing.
Each of our sites around the world has an EHS manager and a dangerous goods manager, a position that equates to the “dangerous goods safety advisor” required by EU regulations. Both of these advise the site director on issues regarding the safe storage and transport of hazardous goods while also monitoring compliance with statutory requirements and our own internal standards.
Our EHS managers are also responsible for monitoring our third-party warehouses. Before signing a contract with a warehouse provider, we assess whether they properly adhere to national and international storage and transport regulations and if they are able to implement our additional requirements. The findings from this audit are summarized in a statement issued by EHS. If off-site warehouses employ additional subcontractors, these are also included in our audit.
Our commitment: Internal standards and international rules
Our Group-wide safety concepts and standards govern the safe storage of hazardous substances. The Warehouse Safety standard, for instance, defines measures to prevent substances from leaking or igniting. According to this standard, risk evaluations must be conducted on all stored substances, and it also sets out special rules of conduct that apply to all warehouse employees.
To ensure third-party warehouses also adhere to our strict safety requirements, our Group standard Warehouse Requirements for Third-party Warehouses defines specific structural and organizational requirements for a facility. Before we sign a contract, warehouse providers must submit a statement detailing how they plan to meet our stringent safety standards.
In Germany, the Technical Rules for Hazardous Substances (TRGS) govern the storage of hazardous substances in non-stationary containers. Across all our warehouse and distribution centers worldwide, we have implemented this regulation’s requirements for storing various hazardous materials together and in 2017 we began rolling out software that will help us keep track of everything. We also comply with the current requirements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) at all our sites, with the sole exception of India, where the GHS system has not yet been fully transposed into national regulations.
Our Group Transport Safety standard defines the safety levels for our sites and is based on the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. This is especially important for facilities in those countries with no local regulations on the transport of hazardous materials. We update our Group standard to reflect current requirements every two years and support our site directors in implementing the relevant changes at the local level.
Enhancing transport and warehouse safety
In addition to the inspections conducted by our EHS and dangerous goods managers, we regularly perform risk-based audits across our company to ensure that our sites are complying with warehouse and transport safety regulations. We generally conduct these audits every five years, performing them more frequently at facilities that pose a potentially higher risk. If major shortcomings are identified, we re-audit the respective site the following year. Conversely, we may decide to extend the period between audits at facilities where, based on the findings from previous audits, we deem the risk potential to be low.
In 2017, we audited 37 of our warehouses for compliance with our Warehouse Safety and Transport Safety standards. In response to the deficiencies identified by this audit, we are currently optimizing our Group-wide packaging selection process with a focus on our portfolio of acquired Sigma-Aldrich products.
Third-party warehouses and contract transportation companies are also regularly audited by our EHS managers. In 2017, we audited 15 third-party warehouses and external logistics providers, developing corrective action plans where shortcomings were identified. Along with implementing individual corrective measures, we also intend to optimize packaging and disposal processes at our third-party warehouses. In this vein, we are therefore currently compiling information for off-site warehouses in Asia and Latin America. Using real-life examples, this brochure will describe and explain our safety concept and guidelines. This is one of the ways we support our providers in meeting our strict requirements.
As a member of the Logistics & Distributors User Group of SQAS, a service provided by the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic), we receive additional audit reports on our logistics service providers. In 2017 we developed criteria to evaluate these reports, which we subsequently make available to the relevant units in our company.
In 2017, no incidents that could have significantly impacted the environment or community were recorded at our company, our third-party warehouses or logistics providers, nor were there any infringements of international regulations.
Continuously improving safety concepts
Our local EHS and dangerous goods managers regularly review and evaluate our transport and warehouse activities, informing site directors of shortcomings and opportunities for improvement. Based on a strength and weakness analysis of each site, we calculate key performance indicators for transport and storage safety, which help us determine where to institute additional improvements. Rolled out in 2017, our in-house e-learning concept for basic management courses on the transport of dangerous goods is mandatory for all logistics, EHS and dangerous goods managers; additional courses on transport safety and storage are currently under development.
Employee training and best practice sharing
Several times a year, our warehouse workers and all employees involved in the transport of goods undergo training on our standards and procedures, as well as on changes to international requirements and incident management. All our truck drivers hold a dangerous goods driving license, while in Germany they complete additional training in line with the German Professional Driver Qualification Act (BKrFQG) and on securing cargo. Across the globe, every year we conduct around 1,000 internal and external training seminars on transport and warehouse safety. In some cases, the managers of third-party warehouses also participate in these sessions.
Furthermore, our EHS managers meet regularly at the EHS Conference in Darmstadt (Germany), where they have the opportunity to share lessons learned and best practices, as well as participate in transport and warehouse safety training. These topics are also covered in the mandatory three-day orientation seminar for all new EHS managers. Such meetings also provide a platform to discuss current issues, for instance transport and warehouse safety during natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which hit the United States at the end of August 2017.
Ensuring correct transport
Our products are primarily delivered to our customers by logistics providers. In Germany, we transport the majority of our hazardous waste ourselves, but do sometimes also enlist the services of other companies if necessary. Furthermore, we participate in the German Transport Accident Reporting and Emergency Response System (TUIS) operated by the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI). Within this system, we exchange expertise and best practices on chemical transport with experts from other chemical companies and also provide hands-on assistance in the event of a chemical transportation accident. When a transport or warehouse accident occurs, we can use our “TUIS Messkonzept Südhessen” to quickly calculate the rate at which hazardous substances are spilling and spreading.
Making transport vehicles safer
The safe transport of dangerous goods requires safe vehicles, another area we pursue. In the past few years, for instance, we have been constantly improving our SafeServer truck body technology. In this design, the aluminum panels integrated into the side walls of the truck render the walls extremely stable, making it largely unnecessary to secure cargo.