Measures for process safety in the Asahi Kasei Group are performed in accordance with our Basic Policy for Safe Operation, which states, "We maintain the safety of employees and local communities through stable and safe operation while working to prevent workplace injuries." An ongoing and autonomous program to ensure process safety includes safety assessment and hazard identification in accordance with our Basic Policy, with specific plans implemented on both annual and multi-year cycles.
As set forth in the Asahi Kasei Group Responsible Care (RC) Principles, we give the utmost consideration to environmental protection, quality assurance, process safety, workplace safety and hygiene, and health maintenance, throughout the product life cycle from R&D to disposal, as preeminent management tasks in all operations. In addition to maintaining legal compliance, we set self-imposed targets for continuous improvement, while performing proactive information disclosure and communication to gain public understanding and trust.
Safety management for high pressure gas
At the Mizushima Works and Kawasaki Works, we have received certification for self-inspection for high-pressure gas safety from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Accordingly, we perform our own "certified safety" and "conformity inspections" for equipment as part of the ongoing effort to maintain stable and safe operation. Specifically, we ensure the safety of the applicable facilities with the following roles in accordance with the High Pressure Gas Certified Safety and Conformity Inspections Implementation and Management Regulations.
|High Pressure Gas Safety Controller||Asahi Kasei Corp. President|
|High Pressure Gas Process Safety Division General Manager||Asahi Kasei Corp. Executive Officer for RC (Director)|
|High Pressure Gas Process Safety Management Department General Manager||Asahi Kasei Corp. Corporate ESH Senior General Manager|
We held the High Pressure Gas Process Safety Measures Promotion Conference, chaired by the General Manager of the High Pressure Gas Process Safety Department, four times (July and October 2020 and January and April 2021) with the relevant parties from head office and the two Works in an effort to exchange information in a timely manner and develop a PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle. The High Pressure Gas Process Safety Measures Meeting, chaired by the General Manager of the High Pressure Gas Process Safety Division, was held once (July 2020) to check on the status of process safety at the two works. In addition, the annual on-site patrol by the High Pressure Gas Process Safety Division General Manager was not conducted last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both Works recognize that continuing operations is a top priority and are taking thorough measures to prevent COVID-19 infections and secure the availability of personnel to ensure that operations do not have to be suspended due to an increase in infections.
In addition, at the time of the renewal assessment (September 2021), Mizushima Works applied for super certification (Specified Certified Operator), which necessitates a higher level of high-pressure gas safety management. We continued our considerations through the preparatory project we launched in fiscal 2018, and we have discussed how to address the main issues as we look to apply. The official kick-off was in fiscal 2020, and the Head Office and the Works will continue working in collaboration to acquire super certification and enhance the management of high pressure gas process safety.
Basic Policy for High Pressure Gas Safety
- Safety is an important fundamental of management, and all of our business activities depend on safety.
- Each one of our employees is responsible for safety, and safety is ensured by all employees together.
- We apply a PDCA (plan-do-check-act) cycle to continuously improve the level of safety.
- Measures to assess risks, and to eliminate and mitigate them, are persistent and ongoing.
Process safety management
The following safety-related accidents occurred in fiscal 2020, including Group subsidiaries and affiliates in Japan and abroad.
[Number of safety-related accidents in fiscal 2020]
- Number of serious industrial accidents: 2 (accident intensity of 18 points or more, or accident resulting in death)
- Number of industrial accidents: 1 (accident intensity of 3 points or more but less than 18 points)
- Number of minor industrial accidents: 20 (accident intensity of less than 3 points)
Note: Classification by accident intensity is based on the standards of the Japan Petrochemical Industry Association (CCPS).
In fiscal 2020, as described below, two serious safety accidents occurred, one of which resulted in the death of a contracted worker.
- (1)June 10, 2020 (Moriyama Works): Explosion during removal operations at the Hipore Plant (one death)
- (2)October 20, 2020 (Nobeoka Branch) Asahi Kasei Microsystems building fire
In the explosion at the Moriyama Works, equipment for which safety measures had already been implemented was being removed, but the contractor was unaware that part of the equipment was a sealed cavity, and that hazardous materials had entered and settled inside the cavity due to corrosion. Flammable operations were performed, which led to an explosion that resulted in the death of a contracted worker. An accident investigation committee was established to conduct a thorough analysis of the causes of the accident, and in January 2021, the Executive Officer in charge of RC issued instructions to the Group to prevent a recurrence.
The building fire at the Nobeoka Branch, which took about four days to be extinguished, was a serious incident that created a lot of inconvenience and concern for local residents, firefighters, government officials, and customers. An accident investigation committee has been set up to discuss this matter, and the authorities (police) are still investigating the incident, so we will provide information in a timely manner and take thorough measures to prevent a recurrence.
These two significant safety incidents are the first of their kind since the Leona plant fire in Nobeoka (March 2002). Based on the lessons learned from these incidents, the entire Group will continue to work together to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.
While there was also another safety incident (a fire breaking out during standard repair operations in March 2021), as well as 20 minor industrial accidents involving small flames/smoking and small leaks of hazardous materials on the premises, we were able to prevent the spread of damage by taking appropriate primary measures at the site. We will continue to strengthen our efforts to reduce the number of industrial accidents.
Activities to pass on operational safety technology
To achieve safe operations, it is essential to perform sound plant maintenance, and to operate facilities in a safe and stable manner. The Asahi Kasei Group avoids operational accidents through risk assessments prior to the construction of new plants, periodic inspections of existing plants performed by auditors specialized in fire and explosion prevention, facility and process reviews from the perspective of preventing abnormal reactions and ensuring interlock functions, and process reviews corresponding to the age of facilities.
Maintaining the activities to transmit process safety and disaster prevention techniques commenced in fiscal 2013, we identify hazards at each plant and specify the risks. When doing this, we examine risks that include abnormal reactions, suspension of services, and contamination assuming the worst-case scenario (hazard) for when safety equipment, such as interlocks, fails to function., and study the effectiveness of polymerization inhibitors and other measures to deal with abnormalities.
Details of initiatives under activities to pass on process safety technology
- (1)Identification of hazard sources
- (2)Passing on through technology communication materials (summaries)
- (3)Analysis of factors leading to high level hazards (equipment damage, fire and explosion) and checking on appropriateness of countermeasures
- (4)Training of operators with ability to apply knowledge to work through troubleshooting drills
In addition, we conduct regular visits and expert third-party verification by Corporate ESH at each plant with extensive discussions aimed at confirming and increasing progress on the content of the reviews.
Safety review system for investment plans
We perform process hazard assessment before plant construction to ensure a high level of safety, not only when establishing new plants or expanding plants but also when modifying or dismantling plants. Internal regulations require a pre-investment inspection to verify plant safety when there are plans to invest in a new plant or plant modification, etc. of a certain scale or larger. Inspection and approval prior to trial operation provides an additional confirmation of plant safety before actual operation begins. The inspection system is applied not only in Japan, but also outside of Japan.
Safety assessment is performed as part of the pre-investment inspection. Ranks are assigned based on the degree of hazard, with methods such as HAZOP* utilized in the risk assessment of high risk facilities.
- * Abbreviation of "hazard and operability study," a method of identifying and dealing with potential problems in industrial processes by assuming deviations from design intentions. This highly exhaustive method is widely utilized throughout the process industries.
Measures for safe and stable operation
Given our diverse range of operations that include the Material, Homes, and Health Care business sectors, the Asahi Kasei Group has plants with a wide variety of different characteristics. No single approach to safety would be appropriate for all plants.
We employ a systematic process to tailor the safety effort to each plant's specific requirements, including the use of the PDCA cycle. One characteristic of this process is the formulation of separate maintenance standards for each individual unit of equipment to ensure the appropriateness of the method and period of maintenance.
In addition, measures that span across the Asahi Kasei Group include a Maintenance Personnel Committee and group-wide plant engineering council with 4 specialist panels: Formulation of optimum systematic maintenance programs, establishment of standards and criteria, formulation of training systems for maintenance engineers, and sharing engineering information. We will ensure safe and stable production at our plants through these maintenance activities.
Training for maintenance
We believe that maintenance means creating the condition of equipment necessary to accomplish production objectives. Although we use a PDCA cycle for the planned maintenance system, people are the most fundamental element. It is vital for each individual to gain the essential technical knowledge and contribute to the strength of the team.
The Group’s maintenance technicians should have the ability to carry out planned maintenance, to predict hazards, and to make improvements rather being purely repair personnel who repetitively restore equipment to its original state. To develop such maintenance technicians, we clarified the training principles for maintenance technicians, formulated a training curriculum for each individual based on these principles from fiscal 2009, and applied the PDCA cycle for education and training based on the curriculum for all maintenance technicians.
Training for process safety
At our petrochemical sites in Mizushima and Kawasaki, the Asahi Operation Academy (AOA) serves as the training center to cultivate the skills necessary to operate petrochemical plants. AOA teaches the principles and structures of equipment, heightening the ability to identify the cause of equipment failure and to respond appropriately. Miniature plants and simulators are used at AOA to provide hands-on experience with controls and instrumentation. Operators thereby gain the technical skills and practical understanding of chemical engineering necessary for safe and reliable plant operation, with the ability to respond appropriately in the event of any abnormality.
We carry out safety training exercises in which employees are given simulated experience of workplace dangers including being caught in/between machinery, contacting hazardous liquids, tripping and falling on the same level, suffering a burn, falling from height, etc.In conjunction, we provide education on human behavioral characteristics and accident case studies in order to instill greater sensitivity for safety among employees and obtain strict compliance to safety rules to avoid dangers.
From fiscal 2019, we began incorporating VR experiences into our basic engineering education and safety training curriculum, and we are working to enhance training to improve risk sensitivity in equipment handling and operation.
|Regularly conducted training||Basic technology courses (machinery, instruments, electricity, and chemical engineering)
Safety experience courses (being caught in/between machinery, contacting hazardous liquids, suffering a burn, stumbling, tumbling or falling, getting scalded, etc.)
Job level-based courses (problem-solving training, etc.)
|Training target||Manufacturing operators and facility management personnel|
We are also focusing on environmental and safety education at our branch offices and Works.
The Fuji Branch not only has plants for a wide variety of products, such as electronic materials, compound semiconductors, water treatment membranes, and pharmaceuticals, but also several research laboratories, which necessitates the cultivation of human resources in a wide range of areas, from R&D to manufacturing. In addition, in recent years, there has been an increasingly high percentage of relatively inexperienced employees, including career hires, and there are concerns about the occurrence of various industrial accidents and safety incidents. To address this, we are working to improve our training system for inexperienced employees. Specifically, in fiscal 2019, as part of our “School of Manufacturing Fundamentals,” we launched an initial training course for operators to learn the Code of Conduct and basic safety and manufacturing knowledge.
In addition, as part of the “School of Manufacturing Fundamentals II,” we launched a manufacturing operator skills training course in fiscal 2020 to teach them the basics of equipment engineering, and we also began a hands-on safety training course to simulate industrial accidents. The hands-on safety training course in particular allows students to become familiar with a wide variety of occupational accidents, such as being caught in/between machinery, being covered in liquid, fires and explosions, falls, and electric shocks. This allows them to learn through hands-on experience based on the knowledge gained from classroom lectures.
A comprehensive set of internal regulations guides the proper response to any industrial accidents or natural disasters which may occur.
The smooth operation of the emergency response system ensures that personal safety is secured, that effects of the situation are prevented from spreading to surrounding areas, and that damage is held to a minimum, through close communication between the plants, regional management, and the head office. The plants prepare annual plans for periodic training drills, and perform drills in coordination with the head office.
At the Fuji Branch, we have established internal regulations on how to respond to emergencies such as major earthquakes and fires, and we conduct drills on a regular basis. In fiscal 2020, joint drills with the fire department were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but fire drills, first aid drills, and drills for dealing with abnormal wastewater continued as in previous years for each department.
Transportation and Distribution Safety
To prevent accidents in physical distribution, Asahi Kasei works closely with logistics providers contracted for storage, loading, unloading, and transportation to implement safety activities, which include logistics safety symposiums, safety liaison conferences, safety inspection, training, and many other safety measures. Specifically, in addition to annual logistics safety symposiums, which brings together all logistics providers to raise safety awareness with the participation of top management of Asahi Kasei, we also hold safety meetings to share information on accidents and other incidents in different transportation modes. In fiscal 2020, all drills were held remotely to prevent COVID-19 infections, but many participated.
[Fiscal 2020 logistics safety symposiums and safety meetings by transportation mode]
- Logistics safety symposiums: 48 companies
- Land transport safety meetings: 16 companies
- Marine transport safety meetings: 16 companies
- Product safety meetings: 11 companies
Furthermore, individual production sites hold joint training drills together with logistics providers to prepare for accidents that may occur and to ensure that damage from such accidents is minimized.
In January 2017, we signed an agreement with the Maritime Disaster Prevention Center and introduced HAZMATers (Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Service) to further strengthen the response capability in the case of an emergency. The engagement of HAZMATers makes a highly specialized emergency response available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ensuring swift action to prevent the spread of damage if an accident occurs.
[Number of logistics accidents in fiscal 2020]
|Serious logistics accidents*||0 cases||0 cases|
|Logistics accidents**||0 cases||1 case|
(Excluding some affiliates such as Asahi Kasei Homes)
There was one logistics accident in fiscal 2020. This accident occurred when a small amount of hazardous material leaked while being poured into an ISO container at a shipping company. While we immediately took measures to clean up the material and prevented it from leaking outside the area, we have taken corrective measures and are working to prevent a recurrence.
- [Definition of accidents]
- *Serious logistics accident: (1) One or more dead or seriously injured / (2) 100 million yen or more in damages / (3) Significant social impact (resident evacuation notice, etc.)
- **Logistics accident: (1) Personal injury (other than a serious logistics accident) / (2) Public response (firefighting, leak prevention, etc.) / (3) Explosion, spread of fire, poisoning, or risk of such accidents / (4) 5 million yen or more in damages