Operational safety

To achieve safe operations, it is essential to build highly safe plants based on process hazard assessment prior to construction, to perform sound plant maintenance, and to operate facilities in a stable and safe 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, process reviews from the perspective of preventing abnormal reactions and ensuring interlock functions, and process reviews corresponding to the age of facilities.

In fiscal 2013, we completed a program of on-site confirmation to identify hazards from the perspective of preventing abnormal reactions and ensuring interlock functions. From fiscal 2013 onwards, we have been preparing technical documents on items with a high degree of hazard and on accidents and problems which occurred in the past. From fiscal 2015, we are implementing education and training for managers and operators to enable them to properly identify the cause and take appropriate action if problems occur, including problems that have not been previously encountered. There were no serious operational accidents inside or outside Japan during fiscal 2016.

Management of operational safety

Operational safety management system
Operational safety management system at Asahi Kasei Chemicals

Our ongoing, autonomous program to ensure operational safety includes safety assessment and hazard identification in accordance with a basic safety management policy, and specific plans are implemented on both annual and multi-year cycles.

Basic policy for high-pressure gas safety

PDCA cycle for safety management
PDCA cycle for safety management
  • 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 cycle to continuously improve the level of safety.
  • Measures to assess risks, and to eliminate and mitigate them, are persistent and ongoing.

Pre-investment inspection system

System for inspection prior to capital investment
System for inspection prior to capital investment

Internal regulations require a pre-investment inspection to verify plant safety when there are plans to invest in a new plant, plant expansion, or plant modification of a certain scale or larger. Inspection and approval prior to trial operation provides an additional confirmation of plant safety before commercial 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 hazard facilities, and other risk assessment methods utilized for low-risk plants which are deemed to be vital.

Safe, stable plant operation

Given our diverse range of operations that include chemicals, fibers, homes, construction materials, electronics, and health care, 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 PDCA cycles. One characteristic of 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, safety information and know-how are shared across the Asahi Kasei Group through a 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.

Process review

Third-party verification of activity to pass on technological skills (Mizushima)

Reviewing processes at our existing plants has long been performed as part of our program to monitor for items in need of replacement and uninspected items, and beginning in fiscal 2009 we began specialized RC audits focused on the risk of fires and explosions as part of our effort to eliminate industrial accidents. Inspections from the perspective of preventing abnormal reactions and ensuring interlock functions began in fiscal 2012, and a program of on-site confirmation was performed in fiscal 2013. Results of this confirmation indicated that there were no major problems. From fiscal 2013 onwards, we have been preparing technical documents on items with a high degree of hazard and on accidents and problems which have occurred in the past, and obtained third-party verification in addition to verification by Corporate ESH & QA. These documents are used in training to ensure that personnel will be able to take appropriate action if problems occur.

Training for maintenance

Maintenance training system

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 technology and contribute to the strength of the team.

The Asahi Kasei Group launched a training program in fiscal 2009 to nurture the skills of maintenance personnel. We clarified the training principles for maintenance technicians, formulated a training curriculum for each individual based on these principles, and applied the PDCA cycle. Currently some 530 personnel are using this system to develop their skills.

In fiscal 2014 we launched a new web-based system based on the experience gained. The new system tracks all training progress in a database that enables more efficient data entry and easier preparation of materials for training audits. Beginning in fiscal 2015, applications for classroom work are made via the website, and results of certifications acquired are managed online.

Training for operational safety

AOA lecture
AOA practical training for pump disassembly/assembly
AOA safety training (simulated experience of being caught in a conveyer belt)

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 with this, 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.

Preparation for emergency situations

Joint emergency response training drill in Nobeoka (together with the Fire Brigade, Fire Department, and Police Department from Nobeoka, and the Coast Guard from Hyuga)

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.

Physical distribution safety

Training drill for physical distribution safety with a vinyl chloride tank truck

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 physical distribution safety symposiums, safety liaison conferences, safety inspection, training, and many other safety measures. 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.