Health and safety

We take responsibility for the health and safety of our employees, doing everything in our power to safeguard them against work-related illnesses and accidents. In the world of office work, issues such as stress prevention, nutrition and mobility are especially commonplace. We focus our efforts on prevention to help our employees mitigate temporary or long-term health problems.

Our principles

Preventing accidents and promoting health

We seek to promote the health of our employees and maintain their ability to perform over the long run, which requires a safe workplace. One of our Group-wide objectives is to step up our safety culture. Our goal for 2020 is to keep our lost time injury rate () under 1.5. Furthermore, we aim to make health management a greater part of our corporate culture and leadership.

Occupational health and safety: An organizational cornerstone

Our Environment, Health and Safety Policy details our approach to occupational health and safety. This policy is an integral part of our Environment, Health, Safety () management system, which is aligned with standards such as 18001. Since 2015, we've been undergoing an external certification process for OHSAS 18001.

Our Environment, Health, Safety, , Quality (EQ) Group function is responsible for our EHS management system. EQ reports to Kai Beckmann, Executive Board member and Chief Administration Officer, setting objectives, overseeing global initiatives and conducting internal audits. Local EHS managers ensure that each individual site adheres to occupational safety laws and regulations.

Systematic data collection and clear rules of conduct

We collect workplace accident data from our sites on a monthly basis. Every facility is required to immediately report relevant accidents to EQ, where the cases are investigated and assessed. If necessary, we implement additional safety measures at our sites.

Experience shows that most workplace accidents can be prevented by proper conduct. Through our “BeSafe!” safety culture initiative, we are working to raise employee awareness of dangers in the workplace and provide them with rules of conduct that help keep them safe.

Health management: A pillar of our corporate culture

Our Group Health Policy defines how we ensure workplace safety for our employees while also promoting their health and welfare. This document details our Group-wide approach to safety and health management as well as our comprehensive behavioral modification program to prevent workplace accidents and occupational diseases. One component of the policy is our Global Wellbeing and Health Promotion Framework, which describes the differing requirements in various countries. Our individual sites are responsible for performing local workplace risk assessments and hazard analyses.

In addition to this policy, our health management system in Germany also helps weave health awareness into our corporate culture. Strategy, focal areas and initiatives are developed by an interdisciplinary steering committee. Topics include health fundamentals, good leadership and tailored health programs such as health prevention for shift workers.

Defining bylaws

At our sites in Germany, we work in partnership with employee representatives to craft bylaws on occupational health and safety. These bylaws define processes such as health counseling, which helps our managers promptly identify health risks and psychological stress in their employees.


Safety certification expanded, accident rates reduced

By the end of 2016, all Performance Materials production sites had been certified to the international standard OHSAS 18001. The certification process helps us pinpoint weak areas, identify opportunities for improvement, and implement suitable measures.

The lost time injury rate () is the indicator used to assess the success of our efforts. This figure measures the accidents resulting in at least one day of missed work per one million man-hours. We track the LTIR for both employees and temporary workers. In 2010, we set the goal of reducing our lost time injury rate to 2.5 by 2015 – in 2015 we far surpassed this objective by achieving an LTIR of 1.5. But this is not enough for us. In our view, nothing is worth an accident. We therefore made our next goal even more ambitious: to sustainably lower our LTIR even further by 2020. By 2016, we’d already reached this objective with an LTIR of 1.3. The majority of incidents resulting in lost time were slips, trips and falls, accidents involving the operation of machinery, and car accidents on business trips.

Despite our efforts, there were unfortunately two work-related accidents resulting in fatalities in 2015. In the United States, one employee died in a car accident, while in Germany, one worker was fatally injured during a mishap involving a forklift. There were no fatal incidents in 2016.

BeSafe! program rolled out worldwide

Through our BeSafe! program, we are working to raise employee awareness of occupational safety. We have now incorporated all production and warehouse sites into the program. Since the completion of the acquisition, Sigma-Aldrich facilities have also started implementing BeSafe!. In October 2016, we successfully held events at four sites in the United States, the first time for our operations in that country.

In 2016, we conducted initiatives, campaigns, and awareness efforts across the Group as part of the BeSafe! program. For instance, several subsidiaries in Latin America held safety competitions. To underscore the importance of safety, we launched the Safety Excellence Award in 2010, which is presented annually to all production sites that have no workplace accidents on record for the year. In total, 61 out of 91 facilities received this award in 2016, with 41 out of 61 production sites having received it in 2015. On January 29, 2016, the workforce at our U.S. site in Branchburg, New Jersey achieved a major milestone of one million man-hours worked without a single reportable accident.

Solvent for production purification processes replaced

In 2015, we replaced tetrahydrofuran (THF) with non-hazardous substances for most of the purification processes at our organic production plants in Darmstadt. THF is a solvent suspected to be carcinogenic. Through this measure, we save nearly € 700,000 per year.

Increasing safety through global best practice sharing

Our EHS managers attend regional and international conferences in an effort to share best practices and lessons learned. In 2015, our Group-wide conference took place in Darmstadt and was attended by 70 employees. In 2016, we also held forums in Taoyuan (Taiwan), with 35 participants, and in Cork (Ireland), with 41 participants. These meetings focused on safe logistics, waste treatment and the integration of Sigma-Aldrich sites. In autumn 2015 and 2016 we hosted the fifth and sixth Best Practice Sharing Meetings in Bari (Italy), which were attended by representatives from business, industrial associations and academic institutions. Moreover, in 2015 and 2016, we conducted safety training in Darmstadt and Gernsheim for 53 managers from 19 countries.

Expanding health management

As part of our EHS management activities, we implemented two new Group-wide processes in 2015. Our Travel Health & Medical Advisory Service assists employees who spend a lot of time abroad, providing them with advice on vaccinations and hygiene risks. Our Physical Ability Test and Health Preservation ensure that all employees meet the health requirements for their particular tasks. This test helps us implement targeted intervention as necessary.

At our Darmstadt and Gernsheim sites, our Health Management unit conducts numerous campaigns and programs to promote the health of our workforce. In summer 2016, 3,682 employees took part in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) hosted by the employee engagement firm Virgin Pulse. Seven-person teams used pedometers to track their step count over a period of 100 days. The result? Altogether, participants walked the equivalent of 67 times around the world. By the end of the GCC, 84% of participants were walking 10,000 steps or more per day, versus 29% before the challenge. Besides being motivated to exercise more than usual, everyone furthermore benefited from practical tips on nutrition and stress management. We also offer our employees services such as our fitness program, which provides them with up to € 195 per year towards health prevention classes. We furthermore offer a company athletics program that currently features 25 different sports.

We analyze the ergonomics of individual workstations and then implement relevant occupational health measures. In our liquid crystal production facilities, for instance, we have made technical improvements such as drum lifters. Our workers have also received training on ergonomics in the workplace. Our Life Science employees in the United States have access to the Early Symptom Intervention and Prevention Program (ESI), which provides training and teaches about workplace ergonomics. 

The lost time injury rate measures the number of accidents resulting in missed days of work (one or more days) per one million man-hours.
Environment, Health and Safety describes environmental management, health protection and occupational safety throughout the company.
The Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OSHAS) is an international occupational health and safety management system.
This term stands for all necessary measures and governance activities to detect, analyze, handle, and mitigate security- and crime-based threats to the company. This helps to protect employees as well as the tangible and intangible assets of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.
The lost time injury rate measures the number of accidents resulting in missed days of work (one or more days) per one million man-hours.
Environment, Health and Safety describes environmental management, health protection and occupational safety throughout the company.