The safety of our plants and processes is a key element of our environmental sustainability efforts. This approach allows us to ensure the safety of our workforce as well as the people in the vicinity of our sites. Furthermore, functional safety systems help minimize production errors, which in turn lowers the risk of financial losses.

Our approach to plant and process safety

We seek to eliminate as many manufacturing hazards as possible in an effort to prevent workplace accidents, production outages and chemical leaks. We also attempt to detect technical defects before they have a chance to cause damage. By training our employees, we prevent human errors as far as possible.

How we organize our plant and process safety

Our Group function Environment, Health, Safety, , Quality (EQ) oversees plant and process safety at our company. At the operational level, responsibility for plant and process safety falls to our individual sites and their managers. Crucial to the safety of our plants and processes is above all fire protection, which makes up approximately 22% of our EHS spending and primarily encompasses the costs for the fire departments at our sites.

We conduct internal EHS audits to review the safety of our plants and processes. During this process, we also evaluate relevant suppliers, using criteria such as purchasing volumes, criticality of the incoming raw materials and geographic location to decide which ones to audit. Our suppliers are obliged to address any deficiencies identified. Auditors use a follow-up system to monitor the implementation of any corrective measures required.

Our commitment: Standards and legislation

All our sites are subject to the same requirements for plant and process safety as set forth by our Group-wide EHS Plant and Process Safety standard, which describes the safety rules for all production plants and warehouses. This document encompasses the entire life cycle of a plant from cradle to grave. Before commissioning a plant, we draft a safety concept that is subject to constant review and, when necessary, updated until the facility is decommissioned. This concept contains an overview of potential risks and the corresponding protective measures.

Our Group-wide Spillage Control standard governs the handling of hazardous materials and stipulates organizational measures to prevent toxic substances from spilling or leaking during storage and transport. In addition to this standard, our Risk Management Process guides all our sites in identifying and assessing risks. As needed, this process can be used to develop and implement measures to minimize such risks. In 2016, we conducted our Group Procedure Hazard and Operability Study, which clearly defined the individuals responsible for identifying potential hazards during a project as well as the manner in which hazards should be identified and documented.

The 2012 EU directive on the control of major accident hazards involving dangerous substances (aka Seveso III) was transposed into German law at the end of 2016 and entered into force on January 14, 2017. Numerous amendments to this directive affect, for instance, the German Hazardous Incident Ordinance (aka 12th BImSchV). In 2017, we updated the existing processes and documents on the assessment and communication of potential hazards presented by our production plants and warehouses.

In 2017 we also made the necessary amendments to all our safety reports in accordance with the new Hazardous Incident Ordinance. On request, members of the public may access these safety reports at any time. We furthermore fulfilled our obligation to provide the public with information, including general information such as the potential hazards caused by an industrial accident, common accident scenarios, and the measures needed to prevent or mitigate their consequences. We update our Hazardous Incident Brochure on a regular basis and, in the case of our Darmstadt site, send the publication to approximately 17,000 households in the site’s vicinity. The brochure is also available on our website.

Making safety measurable

Our EHS performance indicators make it possible to measure safety and identify opportunities for improvement. We track EHS performance indicators at all our production and warehouse facilities, as well as at major research sites such as Billerica, MA (USA) and Chilworth (UK). In doing so, we record both accidents and near-accidents. We investigate each individual incident before devising appropriate countermeasures in an effort to prevent such accidents from repeating themselves in the future.

Of particular relevance are the EHS Incident Rate (EHS IR) for recording and evaluating all minor and major incidents, as well as the associated Loss of Primary Containment (LoPC) indicator. Also important is the EHS Leading Rate (EHS LR), which is calculated based on an analysis of near-accidents and critical situations.

In collaboration with our individual business sectors, we have defined specific targets for our EHS performance indicators. The Executive Board receives semi-annual reports detailing the progress of these indicators.

EHS Incident Rate

Since 2013 we have been tracking the EHS Incident Rate, an indicator that synthesizes the following four categories of data:

  • the number of workplace accidents involving our employees and contractors who work at our sites
  • environmentally relevant incidents as defined by the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) and the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), for instance product spills
  • the activation of operational safety precautions with no adverse impact on people or the environment, such as a preemptive systems shutdown
  • deviations identified during external reviews and audits

The calculation of the EHS Incident Rate includes the number of incidents and the severity of the accident relative to the number of man-hours worked. The lower the EHS Incident Rate, the safer the site is.


was our EHS IR in 2017. It has thus remained at the same stable level as in 2016.

In 2017, we recorded no significant incident-related spills across all production, research and storage sites.

Risk Management Process

Our Risk Management Process guides all our sites in identifying and assessing risks. In 2017, various measures were implemented as part of this process:

Following its acquisition in 2014, we conducted a comprehensive audit of our Suzhou site in China in which we identified shortcomings and subsequently took steps to address them. Continuing with these efforts, in 2017 we improved the plant and process safety of the site’s distillation facility.

Training and sharing lessons learned

The safety of our plants and processes is predicated on the successful interaction between man and machine, which is why it’s crucial for us to educate our employees and provide them with regular training. Our internal continuing education programs for site, production, engineering, and EHS officers also cover plant and process safety. Likewise, newly hired EHS managers are trained in plant and process safety during their onboarding. In 2017, 19 new employees completed the onboarding process.

In the interest of improving safety, it is extremely important to share best practices and lessons learned, an approach that enables all our production sites to learn from incidents at other facilities and thereby implement preventive measures. Once a month, for instance, site directors and EHS managers participate in safety leadership calls to share new lessons learned. Additionally, discussion rounds are held by the EHS managers at our sites.

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.
Environment, Health and Safety describes environmental management, health protection and occupational safety throughout the company.
Environment, Health and Safety describes environmental management, health protection and occupational safety throughout the company.

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