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Great place to work

In 2014 we made good progress in most areas, including people development, being a preferred employer and workplace health.

Zero accidents

In January 2014 an accident at the Olen plant in Belgium cost the lives of two Umicore employees. The findings indicated that the accident was due to an unexpected accumulation of hydrogen in the storage tank on which the two employees were carrying out maintenance work. Immediately following the accident Umicore made a strong commitment to address process safety in a more systematic way through the company. A dedicated team was appointed to run a Group-wide process safety project. This project aims to increase the focus on process safety at all industrial sites through the integration of best process safety practices in Umicore’s existing management systems. In the course of 2014, the project team engaged with all business units and visited over 20 sites to increase awareness of process safety and stimulate the exchange of best practices. These were shared across sites and business units and consolidated in practical guidance notes to facilitate their implementation. In line with our goal to reach a common understanding of process safety, the project team has also developed a simple but effective process safety e-learning for all employees involved in process safety.

In terms of occupational safety performance for 2014, the accident in Olen overshadows everything. This is particularly the case for the severity rate. In terms of accident frequency, the number of lost-time accidents was higher in 2014 (37) compared to 2013 (35) and the accident frequency rate therefore increased from 2.08 to 2.16. Due to the two fatalities, the accident severity rate rose to 0.94. While this evolution is not positive, there were some encouraging signs. In 2014, 84% of the reporting sites were able to operate with no lost-time accidents compared to 79% in 2013 and seven business units were able to operate for the full year with no lost-time accidents. Rechargeable Battery Materials managed to run its sizeable industrial operations with no lost-time accidents in 2014 and Zinc Chemicals recorded only one lost-time accident over its seven sites in spite of the risks usually associated with its industrial operations, which include the handling of molten metal. These examples show that all sites can reach the goal of zero accidents. To reinforce the point, Umicore registered its second-ever accident-free month across all business units in November 2014.

We accord internal recognition for sites that have achieved the benchmark of three years, five years or ten years with no lost time accidents or recordable injuries to Umicore staff and no lost time accidents involving contractors. At the end of 2014, 9 sites had achieved the three year benchmark. Five of those sites had also achieved the five year benchmark.

We held the fourth edition of our Safety Award in 2014 with the winner, Peter Verbraeken, a coach in the maintenance department of the smelter in Hoboken, Belgium. He was chosen by a jury from a field of 50 submissions covering more than 200 people. The jury also decided to give a special recognition to Ricardo Kurihara who is a production supervisor at the plant in Guarulhos, Brazil. The award is designed to encourage all employees to take ownership of safety in their own workplace and to encourage the sharing of best practices throughout Umicore.