When, under the clear sky of a Texas evening, a driver from Clariant’s Oil Services returns from his tour across the Permian Basin, he can be sure it has been made safer by the SmartDrive camera system installed in his truck. Not much later, on the other side of the globe, the »Tangerang Coffee Club« starts at Clariant’s largest site in Indonesia. Drinking a cup of delicious morning »java« is of course a priority among the more than 200 employees gathered – but so is hearing about the latest safety news and opportunities for improvement.
Clariant is a big global chemicals company, with more than 17,000 employees working in hundreds of locations, often handling special substances and dealing with large machines. Ensuring the safety of people and the environment here is a serious business, and one at which Clariant has been exceptionally successful. During the last 15 years, its lost time accident rate or LTAR, which can be roughly said to state the number of absence-causing accidents per 100 employees per year, improved from nearly one to an outstanding 0.15 in 2019.
Responsible for this success are global programs like AvoidingAccidents@Clariant, started in 2007, as well as local measures like SmartDrive in Texas and the early-hour briefings in Indonesia. »Creating safe work environments is of course key,« explains Paul Lieck, Corporate Safety Director North America. »But the raised awareness and better training we achieve with our truck cameras is just as essential. Because, in the end, safety depends on how we act in these environments.«
Other ways to foster a good safety culture are efficient channels for reporting risks and the site safety awards Clariant gives out each year. Tangerang, for instance, received the Phoenix Award for exceptional safety improvements in 2017. Honoring absolute safety performance, the Platinum Award went to Clariant’s Scottish site in Aberdeen in 2019, its Japanese site in Shizuoka in 2018, and its large German Knapsack site in 2017.
The first site to receive this highest award of the program, which Clariant introduced in 2015 as a new incentive for employees, was its freshly expanded ethoxylation plant in Daya Bay, China, and in 2016, the recently opened polymer facility in Spain’s port city Tarragona followed. »It’s a great way to recognize efforts,« says Tarragona-based Head of Process Safety Jordi Serral, »and a fine motivation for pushing ahead.«
»We call it our path to zero – by which we mean zero accidents. For an operation of our size and nature, this is very ambitious indeed, yet there are sites that haven’t had a lost-time accident in ten or twenty years. And I think it’s absolutely a goal worth striving for.«
Volker Hautzel, Head of Occupational Health & Safety at Clariant
When asked just how far this pushing shall go, Volker Hautzel, Head of Occupational Health & Safety at Clariant, has an ambitious answer. »We call it our path to zero,« he says, »by which we mean zero accidents. For an operation of our size and nature, this is very ambitious indeed, yet there are sites that haven’t had a lost-time accident in ten or twenty years. And I think it’s absolutely a goal worth striving for.«
2020, of course, saw another big worry added to the list of risks needing management at Clariant: Covid-19. »After 25 years of successfully reducing risks, this certainly came as a very unwelcome anniversary gift,« says Joachim Eigemeier, Clariant’s Head of Environment, Safety & Health Affairs. »But then again, all those years of cultivating safety now show their worth. We were able to use our existing emergency organizations and thus implement our safety concepts for the COVID-19 pandemic very well. And all staff are doing a great job of dealing with the challenge.«
Which is a good thing to see, he thinks, because of what the future may bring: »Unlike what many think, most accidents we do have are not chemicals-related but things like broken fingers and hurt backs, as in many industries. Yet making chemicals of course comes with a special responsibility – for our people, our products, our communities and the environment. Automation is standing at the doorstep, more safety challenges might come, and growing cultural diversity, which we highly welcome, brings with it the need to communicate safety in new and different ways.«
But with all the experiences and advances made during the past quarter century, Eigemeier and his team are sure, ensuring – and further improving – safety in the next one will be more than possible.