Workplace safety, hygiene, and health

Policy

While business is operated globally, the structure of society is changing dramatically. The population continues to age, and the way of hiring people as well as working styles are changing. In this time of change, the Asahi Kasei Group recognizes the importance of ensuring comfortable and safe workplace environments for all employees to maintain good health in mind and body, enabling them to make the most of their capabilities and possibilities.

The Asahi Kasei Group regards all employees as precious assets. Our RC Principles state: “We give the utmost consideration to environmental protection, quality assurance, operational 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 cooperation with employees, we strive for a comfortable workplace environment throughout the company. We also implement various measures to support employees in maintaining and advancing their mental and physical well-being in accordance with our health management guidelines, including screening for lifestyle-related diseases and mental health checkups.

Management framework

The Asahi Kasei Group has worker health and safety committees which monitor employees’ health and safety at work. The committees meet monthly to improve the standard of occupational health. Each workplace has its own system to prioritize the safety of employees and other workers through a policy and targets. In fiscal 2013 we began full implementation of an internet-based electronic diagnosis system to survey the stress level of individual employees as part of our effort for health care.

Preventing workplace accidents

The effort to prevent workplace accidents is integrated in our comprehensive OHSMS1 program that combines conventional safety initiatives2 with risk assessments and a prevention-oriented plan-do-check-act (PDCA) system.

In fiscal 2002, we began applying OHSMS in accordance with OHSAS 18001 standards. In fiscal 2009, OHSMS was implemented at 90% of all plants and laboratories.

Integration of workplace safety initiatives
Integration of workplace safety initiatives

Approach to workplace safety

Identification of potential hazards

Effective prevention of workplace accidents requires the identification of all potential hazards in a workplace. In addition to conventional safety initiatives, it is important to consider safety from the perspective of the problems which conceivably arise in a wide variety of situations—as a result of both potentially unsafe physical conditions (hazardous working environment due to equipment, materials, noise, etc.) and potentially unsafe actions of personnel.

Risk assessment

Schematic image for prevention of workplace accidents
Schematic image for prevention of workplace accidents

Priority for mitigating the potential workplace hazards identified is assigned based on a scoring system that combines the severity of the impact of problems which could occur and the frequency with which such problems would be likely to occur.

Mitigation of the highest risks

Measures to achieve inherent safety by eliminating unsafe conditions (by eliminating dangerous procedures, automation, eliminating sources of problems, changeover to safe materials, etc.) and the application of safeguards are extremely effective in the effort to avoid risks. We focus on achieving inherent safety and applying safeguards (isolation and stoppage) to avoid risks associated with the use of machinery and equipment to prevent the “caught in/between machinery” category of accident, which can easily result in severe injury.

Inherent safety and safeguards

Formulation of safety measures
Formulation of safety measures

Measures to achieve inherent safety and the application of safeguards to avoid risks are generally considered to provide the greatest level of safety, as shown in the following table. We incorporate such measures in the construction of new or replacement facilities, upon safety reviews of existing facilities, and to prevent the recurrence of accidents.

Systems for safe operation

Operations for which the elimination of risks through equipment modification is impractical are classified as operations requiring special control. In such cases, risks are reduced through compliance with safe operating standards*. In addition to double-checking that proper procedures are followed, a range of creative measures are employed to ensure that safe operating standards are observed from day to day.

Occurrence of workplace injuries

In fiscal 2017, 15 lost-workday injuries occurred and there were no fatal accidents. Although we have strived to eliminate injuries in the “caught in/between machinery” category, one of them was in that category. We are applying the lessons from that accident to further reduce the risk of accidents in the “caught in/between machinery” category by eliminating sources of danger and enhancing safeguards. Severe injuries are more likely to occur during irregular tasks which are only performed once every year or two. For the assessment of risks based on severity and frequency, we will prioritize measures to enhance the safety of tasks which, no matter how low their frequency scores, are likely to cause severe injury in the unlikely event that an accident does occur.

We also formulated a set of guidelines on machinery safety in accordance with ISO12100* and in fiscal 2014 began machinery risk assessments by designers in the case of building new equipment or modifying existing equipment, with deliberation among related parties as part of the equipment inspection.

The two categories of fall and traffic accident accounted for 80% of all lost-workday injuries. To prevent these common accidents that could occur even in non-factory workplaces such as sales offices or headquarters, we are promoting safety activities in all workplaces such as basic safety compliance and renewing our emphasis on a culture of safety.

Incidence of workplace injury by event category (FY2017 in Japan)
Incidence of workplace injury by event category (FY2017 in Japan)
Incidence of workplace injury by event category (FY2007–2016 in Japan)
Incidence of workplace injury by event category (FY2007–2016 in Japan)
Frequency rate1
Frequency rate1
Severity rate2
Severity rate2

Maintaining workplace hygiene

Workplaces where potential health hazards are present are subject to regular monitoring under the Working Environment Measurement Law. Additionally, risk management of chemicals is implemented to reduce risks due to chemical substances.

Noise and heat exposure data are recorded and maintained for all relevant personnel to enable each individual’s exposure to be managed and minimized. We are advancing plant modification and reviewing work procedures to reduce exposure to noise and heat.

Safety management and initiatives at Oita Plant of Japan Elastomer Co., Ltd.

Objectives and results

Japan Elastomer Co., Ltd. (JEC) was founded in 1972 as a joint venture between Asahi Kasei and Showa Denko K.K. The Oita Plant of JEC is an independent factory among Asahi Kasei’s three sites producing synthetic rubber, which is widely used for fuel-efficient tires, as resin modifier, and an ingredient of adhesives. All employees and workers are striving to ensure safety under the concept of “sincerely heighten awareness and carefulness for ensuring safety to completely avoid accidents and injuries” and “solving fundamental problems by practicing the three actuals of the actual place, the actual thing, and the actual fact.” In fiscal 2018, JEC’s Oita Plant received the JCIA Safety Special Award (the special award is for small and medium-sized establishments) in recognition of its outstanding safety activities.

Overview of activities

Kenichi Kudou, Manager of Environment & Safety (left), and Toshiyuki Furuno, Plant Superintendent (right), receive the JICA Safety Special Award

JEC’s safety program is characterized by enabling the participation of all members to perform safety activities by each unit of workers (shift teams or sections) coordinated by a Safety Leader (SL). The main activities include a “safety patrol” by the Plant Superintendent and “SL activities” by each working unit, both of which have been implemented for 45 years since the founding of JEC, as well as “hazard prediction” and “confirming safety by pointing” (for 39 years) and “reporting of near-accidents and potential hazards” (for 35 years). While these may seem to be fundamental activities that are widely implemented in many organizations, JEC’s long continuation of them has brought deep understanding and firmly established a culture of safety with heighten awareness and sensitivity to safety issues.

JEC’s plant is located in the Oita petrochemical complex, an industrial cluster which allows different companies to nurture their own safety culture while learning from one another through mutual inspections and safety forums with the participation of all companies.

The Oita Plant recently adopted a new program to pass on technological skills for operational safety, which began at the Kawasaki Works in 2013. By identifying occupational hazards and risks, and passing on understanding of how to apply measures to prevent injuries, the program is further improving the effort to maintain safety for a new generation of workers as well as people newly installed in managerial positions.

Health maintenance and promotion for employees

Ratio of employees with health warning signs
Ratio of employees with health warning signs

Kasei Group has provided employees with healthcare guidance including preventive measures for lifestyle diseases and mental health enrichment by health maintenance staff in each site.

Additionally, we have promoted the use of our health improvement program, a tool for health management that was revised to enable easier use of specified health guidance. This program is especially useful for the maintenance and improvement of employees’ health at independent plants where on-site health care staff is limited, and also as an outside resource for affiliated companies.

In fiscal 2017, the results of annual checkups indicated that the proportion of employees with health warning signs decreased and the ratio of employees with obesity and employees who smoke slightly increased.

Mental health and care

The Asahi Kasei Group is working to improve the workplace environment by enhancing its four complimentary approaches to care in accordance with its mental health care guidelines.

For self-care by individual employees and care by industrial medical staff, in fiscal 2013 we began full implementation of an intranet-based electronic diagnosis system developed by Fujitsu Software Technologies Ltd. In addition to surveying the stress level of individual employees, this system analyzes workplace stress to help improve the workplace environment as part of our effort for care by line of authority, including various programs tailored to each location such as health check sheets (in Nobeoka), ensuring a vibrant workplace environment with participation of all members (in Mizushima), improving the workplace safety by utilizing MIRROR (in Fuji).

Intranet-based electronic diagnosis system used to survey workplace stress
Intranet-based electronic diagnosis system used to survey workplace stress

A provision for shortened working days is available for personnel returning from leave of absence for psychiatric convalescence as well as for any other injury or illness, enabling a gradual recovery of a full work load. At each plant site and office location, we provide care by specialists, including training sessions by external lecturers and referral of counseling services.

Analysis of factors and circumstances resulting in leave of absence for mental health

Categorization of factors resulting in leave of absence for mental health
Categorization of factors resulting in leave of absence for mental health

There are multiple and complicated factors that cause employees to take leave of absence for mental health, including workplace-related issues, physical health problems, employees’ approach to work, and issues in their private lives, as well as various circumstances such as changes in work duties, moves to different departments, or family problems. We designed an analytical tool to categorize the stress factors of employees taking leave of absence for mental health reasons in order to identify the causes of unhealthy mental states and find out the tendencies and characteristics which would enable effective measures to reduce the number of employees who take leave of absence.

Using the tool, occupational health staff analyze the categorized factors, both direct causes and related circumstances, and assign a degree of contribution to each one. The data is automatically collated and graphed by site. Results from each site are also aggregated, with company-wide data analyzed according to various aspects such as job category and position which are then shared throughout the company.

Measures for employees stationed overseas

The Asahi Kasei Group is enhancing health management support for employees stationed overseas, which are increasing with the globalization of business. In addition to providing such employees with annual medical check-ups, we perform a survey using a check-sheet regarding subjective symptoms, lifestyle issues, and stress factors, followed by interviews via internet videoconference as needed. Furthermore, interviews by industrial physicians are performed if the employees appear to be working excessive hours based on the time they are logged in to their computers.

Up to fiscal 2017, we had industrial physicians visit each of our sites in Asia on a two-year cycle for face-to-face interviews with stationed employees, as well as observation of their residential environments and available medical services. Beginning in fiscal 2018, we are providing interviews by industrial physicians via internet videoconference for employees stationed overseas in all regions including Europe and the Americas between six months and a year after their assignment. As needed, we also have industrial physicians perform observations of available medical services and onsite interviews.

Measures to prevent lumbago

The award certificate

At the 90th Health Management Session held by the Japan Society for Occupational Health, the Oita Plant of Asahi Kasei Medical MT Corp. made a poster presentation entitled “Corporate Support Measures for Prevention of Lumbago.” The measures were identified as one of the Good Practice Samples (GPS) for promoting occupational health, and were awarded the GP Encouragement Prize at the society’s general meeting.

The plant’s measures to prevent lumbago include mat exercises after work to strengthen the trunk muscles, daily calisthenics at each workplace, fall prevention exercises, and “health rally” activities. In addition to preventing lumbago, these measures have enhanced communication and alleviated stress.