Safety is of paramount importance at Brenntag and is part of our corporate strategy. “We are the safest chemical distributor” – this is the primary objective of our company vision.
Worldwide, we operate in accordance with “Safety First” as our first core value. This applies both to the safety and health of our employees, as well as to product and process safety.
Safety: Best Practices from the Brenntag regions
In the event of an emergency, they are there immediately – the responders from the emergency team. There are emergency teams at every Brenntag site. The team members receive special training and equipment and respond to events like fires and chemical spills. They perform a diverse range of tasks which are adapted to the individual circumstances at each site and coordinated with local authorities: organizing and carrying out evacuations, providing first aid or fire-fighting are just some examples.
During an incident on May 25, 2018, the emergency team at the Zgierz site in Poland demonstrated its reliability and professionalism. A fire broke out that evening on the premises of a plastic waste storage company located directly next to the site. This fire quickly developed into a major blaze that took several days to extinguish. When the flames threatened to spread to Brenntag’s warehouses, the Brenntag team worked with the fire brigade to cool down the buildings from the outside, which preventing the situation from deteriorating. After the incident, representatives of the fire brigade repeatedly praised the professional actions of our employees, the effective cooperation and the Brenntag equipment on hand.
Brenntag is increasingly taking advantage of the benefits of digital work methods. For example, Brenntag North America and Brenntag UK & Ireland have each introduced their own integrated IT system for stock management, product tracking and transport management.
The purpose of these systems includes tracking goods on a paperless and real-time basis as they are moved from our suppliers to our plants and to the customer, thereby minimizing the risk of product mix-ups and incorrect deliveries.
Since our drivers are equipped with corresponding tablets, required safety checks for vehicles and customer installations can be recorded with a time stamp. Any problems at the customer’s site can be documented immediately and forwarded to the relevant units at Brenntag. For example, if a driver is unsure whether a product he has on the tanker is correct for that customer’s storage tank, he can send a photo of it and obtain permission to unload.
Brenntag is focusing on accidents involving vehicles (forklift trucks, trucks, cars, motorbikes). Although the number of incidents has remained relatively constant over the years, they are now also proportionally among the most frequent causes of injuries. Since accidents involving vehicles can also have severe consequences, extensive preventative programmes have been established in the Brenntag regions.The focus ranges from driving safety training, including for sales employees, to the use of devices to analyse driving in trucks, to improved road signage for works transport and for pedestrians at our sites.
More than 1,300 employees in 20 countries within the EMEA region perform online training each quarter on a topic related to safe driving.
Brenntag North America has had particularly positive experiences using a system that records driving behaviour and traffic situations with a video camera. If necessary, truck drivers can then analyse critical situations and unsafe behaviour with their direct managers using video clips. Since the programme was introduced, the number of accidents per million miles travelled has decreased by 72%.
Brenntag EMEA conducts special hazard analyses for internal on-site transport at its sites. Any necessary measures identified on the basis of these analyses are being implemented. These vary considerably in terms of complexity and costs, ranging from the simple installation of mirrors to the clear separation of pedestrian paths and vehicle roadways, right up to investment in vehicles and construction activities. In Deerlijk, for example, the old loadingramps were replaced in 2018 with new ones that enable safer loading.
Following the successful completion of an extensive plant and warehouse expansion project, the Santiago site of Brenntag Chile was granted an approval by the country’s health department in 2018 in accordance with the new safety resolution 43. Under this resolution, the requirements for storing and handling hazardous substances are much stricter. Brenntag Chile was one of the first companies in the chemical industry to obtain this permit.
Thanks to its high profile within the industry, Brenntag UK & Ireland was invited to present its comprehensive safety approach as part of the “Solutions for our Future” campaign of the UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA). As part of this, a film about Brenntag’s “Safety First” culture was made at their Lutterworth site, Leicestershire.The processes and activities conducted on site are presented in the film, as are the BEST initiatives.
Brenntag Asia Pacific is continuously working to improve its safety performance, with a focus not just on reportable accidents, but also on near misses. Analysing these is essential for identifying risks as part of efforts to prevent accidents.
In order to increase employees’ awareness of this particular issue and prompt them to report incidents that almost led to an accident, Brenntag Asia Pacific recognizes one person every month in each country who has reported a near miss. The most suitable example is then chosen every six months and communicated to the entire region.
Brenntag EMEA has specified four of its procedural instructionsas “Critical Procedures”. Failure to adhere to the measures described could lead to significant risks. These include the handling of flammable liquids. An additional special compliance audit programme was developed for these instructions in 2018.
An audit catalogue was created based on several pilot audits at selected sites. An audit team of 18 Brenntag experts from several countries was then trained accordingly to this catalogue. Starting in the first quarter of 2019, these experts will audit Brenntag locations extensively, first in teams and then later as individual auditors. 31 audits are initially planned for 2019.
At our Belgian site in Deerlijk, the old installation for filling IBCs with acids and lyes was replaced with new equipment in 2018. Brenntag’s experience from past accidents was incorporated into the design planning process. The result was a new filling line that has made significant ergonomic and safety improvements to the work done by employees on site.
As part of the global “Hold the Handrail” campaign, in 2017 the Brenntag regions and countries have adopted numerous measures and launched initiatives to raise awareness among employees on the safe use of stairs and the dangers of falling and tripping on stairs, as avoidable accidents repeatedly occur in this area. In North America, for example, special training was provided, and in Latin America, the stairs at all sites were fitted with anti-slip surfaces. In Asia Pacific, signs asking people to use the handrail were mounted on a gradual basis in offices and warehouses, and in Europe, innovative initiatives, such as a 3D design in front of the company headquarters, were used to attract people’s attention.
As a conscientious participant in the value chain, Brenntag does all that it can to promote increased safety for all parties involved. For this reason, we regularly incorporate our customers and suppliers into our safety culture.
In November 2017, Brenntag UK & Ireland hosted its first ever Safety Day. Joined by customers, suppliers and key experts in the supply chain, Brenntag set the scene for the pertinent topics of the day. Followed by a number of interactive workshops and presentations, the day covered a diverse range of scenarios, examples and initiatives on safety issues in chemical distribution and the wider environment. Best practices were highlighted, the benefits of partnership programs and industry voluntary initiatives were also discussed.
Brenntag Thailand provided trainings to its customers related to the safe handling of hazardous chemicals – e.g. ammonia – and emergency situations. This does not only help to prevent accidents that may happen at customers’ premises, but supports to maintain good relationship with our customers.
At Brenntag in Singapore, the managers from commercial, logistics, and HSE functions work together to ensure that defined products are delivered and unloaded safely to customers’ storage areas and tanks. They conduct risk assessments at customers’ premises prior to the first delivery and perform pre-unloading safety checks for ensuring that every filling device, connection, and relevant equipment is in good condition before unloading products. Any deficits or identified risks are addressed with the customer.
An initiative in place at Brenntag Mid-South in Atlanta, Georgia, focuses on safety issues outside the workplace: Once every quarter, the site’s customers receive a news letter on safety-related issues that are specifically not work or business-related but rather are concerned with personal safety. These include e.g. a home fire escape plan or information on defensive driving. The customers have responded very positively to this unusual and interesting form of communication.
Selecting suitable containers – known as intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) – is key for the process safety for flammable liquids. While these liquids are filled in metal IBCs as standard practice in many countries, special plastic IBCs are also permitted in Europe and are widely used in the industry. Several years ago, Brenntag decided to use only metal IBCs for non-conductible flammable liquids in Europe, as we consider them to be safer. Even though these IBCs are associated with higher costs and increased logistics, prompting concerns among some customers, we completed the transition phase in 2017 with the exception of a small number of countries. Plastic IBCs may now only be used for these liquids in exceptional circumstances where there is a reason for doing so.
To increase the “personalization” of safety, the Brenntag organizations in Latin America have launched various initiatives as part of their comprehensive CASA programme*. Under the motto of “Safety is my option”, employees in Columbia are requested to perform their own individual risk analysis that also explicitly covers their personal lives in addition to their workplace and their job activities.
The “Repositioning the family” programme at Brenntag Ecuador also aims to involve the families of employees in the culture of safety through safety and rescue exercises and information events on health, group dynamics and alcohol and drug abuse, for example. Safety in their personal life and the desire to return home safely to their family every day are proven to motivate employees to engage in safe behaviour at the workplace.
The annual “CASA Week”, which was held throughout the Latin America region in April 2016, also focused on the personalization of safety. As part of this health and safety week, a diverse range of activities, workshops, games and exercises took place at all locations, with customers, suppliers and service providers also invited in addition to the families of employees.
* CASA stands for quality (CALIDAD), health and safety (SEGURIDAD & SALUD) and the environment (MEDIO AMBIENTE).
At Brenntag Northeast in the USA, representatives from almost every company division founded a committee to work together to achieve maximum safety in the working environment. In an exemplary manner, this group of employees has repeatedly succeeded in raising their colleagues’ awareness of safety issues by means of a newsletter and clever ideas and campaigns, bringing room for improvement to their attention and improving the safety processes and infrastructure at the Brenntag Northeast sites.
There are now also regular warehouse inspections conducted by a multi-departmental group of employees (”Management by Walking Around”): thanks to their impartiality, these employees can spot hazard sources that are otherwise easily overlooked in day-to-day work.
In the course of the BEST programme, in 2016, a regular “walk-around” was introduced at Brenntag Benelux for representatives from management. Following the walk-around, they discussed their impressions and the safety-related aspects of the various workflows with the employees working at the sites. This is enhancing the common understanding of safety across the various levels within the company.
A similar initiative was launched by Brenntag France: The drivers here wanted improved communication with the managers and a greater understanding of the daily challenges they face in terms of occupational safety. The HSE team subsequently arranged for managers from the HSE, Operations and Sales areas to spend a day travelling around with the drivers. A total of 68 accompanied tours took place in the reporting period and the positive feedback from both sides convinced the decision-makers to continue with this BEST practice in the future.
At Brenntag UK & Ireland, orange high-visibility jackets were introduced in July 2016, on the back of which is printed “Am I safe? Talk to me”. The aim is to encourage employees to speak directly to the person wearing the jacket if they see them engaging in unsafe behaviour – even if the person is a line manager or authorizing officer. Hierarchy levels are proven to be a reason why attention is not drawn immediately to dangerous behaviour.
The initiative is related to the global Brenntag Enhanced Safety Thinking (BEST) programme, which was launched in 2015. It focuses on the safety behaviour of Brenntag employees at all levels within the company, which is the primary cause of accidents in more than 80% of cases.
Delivering long session of training on a regular basis especially to front line level is not practical. It also does not provide the desired impact. Therefore, Brenntag Indonesia is using alternative ways to ensure our front line employees are receiving and understand the messages and training we are providing to them by using tools such as daily tool box talks, smart phone applications, notice boards, and utilizing brief time slots during no-production days such as on stock counting day to convey short but concise educational messages.
This approach has helped Brenntag Indonesia continuously improve safety knowledge and awareness while making safety part of their normal routine.
A new guideline for selecting and training temporary employees was introduced for Brenntag EMEA at the start of 2017. In both 2017 and 2018, the number of accidents resulting in lost work days among temporary employees was only half the level recorded in the preceding years.
At the same time, the total number of incidents reported in the third quarter of both years was significantly lower compared to previous years. A relatively high number of temporary employees work for the company in the third quarter, as the holiday period in Europe occurs during this time.
Brenntag Asia Pacific has drawn up a comprehensive vehicle and transport safety scheme as part of its HSE “5-Star Facility Program”. This ensures that employees are able to operate vehicles and equipment expertly and safely throughout the region. The core components of the program include driver training, the vehicles’ good overall condition and the required safety equipment, both for vehicles as well as on the company’s sites.
Drivers regularly undergo special safety training including hazardous goods classification, safe loading methods, behavior in the event of an emergency, securing cargo and defensive driving. Employees also receive inspection and maintenance training to ensure the vehicles operate at an optimal level. At the start of every working day, a safety meeting is held and vehicles and equipment are checked.
Occupational safety is an integral part of Brenntag Latin America’s comprehensive CASA* program. A health and safety week involving workshops and informative events is held every year at all of the region’s locations as part of this program. There are demonstrations and exercises, e. g. covering the correct use of protective clothing, emergency procedures, responsible driving and healthy lifestyles. The employees are offered free health check-ups, as are their family members in many cases.
A high degree of safety awareness has developed among the employees as a result. Together with regular training sessions and the established safety measures and processes, Brenntag Latin America has succeeded in considerably reducing its accident rate over the years thanks to the CASA program.
* CASA stands for quality (CALIDAD), health and safety (SEGURIDAD & SALUD) and the environment (MEDIO AMBIENTE).