Health & Safety

Occupational health & safety GRI 403 (2018)

Our employees are the key drivers behind our success and growth, and we have taken comprehensive health and safety measures to provide an attractive and safe place for them to work. The safety of our employees is of paramount importance to Oerlikon, as is mandated by the Group’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors

Management system GRI 403-1

Our Health & Safety ambition is “Zero Harm to People,” including our employees, contractors, visitors and the communities in which we operate. This remains our ongoing target as we aim to ensure that no one comes to harm within Oerlikon’s sites or while working for the company at external locations. Based on our belief that all injuries, occupational illnesses and diseases can be avoided, our Health & Safety commitment is to:

  • Implement workplace programs that promote healthy behaviors.
  • Provide a safe and healthy working environmentfor all employees.

To fulfill this commitment, we take ongoing actions to:

  • Continually improve our Health & Safety performance.
  • Meet or exceed legal requirements.
  • Assess and manage all risks in relation to Health & Safety.
  • Work systematically to apply the parameters, processes and tools defined by the Group-wide, Division and local Health & Safety directives and guidelines, and within the scope of a Health & Safety management system.
  • Provide adequate training.
  • Conduct regular performance reviews.

Health & Safety is a core component of Oerlikon’s code of conduct. For further details about the Code of Conduct, see the Ethics & Integrity section of this report, see  here. An updated version of the Code of Conduct will be launched and available on Oerlikon’s website in the second half of 2021.


Our COVID-19 Response: Protecting Our People

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oerlikon’s concern was to take care of our people, communities and customers.

For our people, the immediate priority was ensuring safe operations in our plants. Our “Zero Harm”
principle was tested as never before from the start of the pandemic. We promptly shared information to raise awareness and increase the understanding of the virus and how it is transmitted, as well as how to protect oneself against it at work and in private.

Based on science and local regulations, we constantly adapted our internal rules and regulations, focusing on safe distance rules, handwashing, masks and proper ventilation in particular. To reinforce safe distancing and enable contact tracing, we found an innovative solution to further protect our employees’ health.

In May, Oerlikon launched a small-scale pilot of the sensor-based technology SafeZone. Developed by the Munich-based start-up Kinexon, this technology equips employees with wearable sensors, called SafeTags, that make it possible to measure the distance between them and are accurate to within 10 centimeters. Each SafeTag has a unique ID number that is paired with another ID on a QR code, representing the employee wearing the tag. That link to the user’s name is stored in a separate file by the HR department, and the data is only used for contacttracing purposes in the event of a positive test
result. The technology enables complete anonymity and privacy protection.

Since then, we have issued more than 7 500 SafeTags across 90 sites in Europe and the US. Due to frequency differences, we have deployed in early January 2021 an alternative but similar technology in Asia, outside of China, known as SpaceBands. More than 2 000 of these bands will be available for use at our Asian sites.

The expansion of the initial pilot demonstrates how well this solution met our demands for reliable distance warning functionality and tracing capabilities. These two characteristics helped our employees protect themselves and one another by maintaining safe social distances in the workplace and also allowed HR and Health & Safety teams to respond quickly in the event of evidence of an infection within any of our facilities. Employee feedback has been positive with regard to both ease of use and appreciation of our efforts to use the latest technology to protect their health.


Occupational health services GRI 403-3

Occupational health services are organized at the legal entity or site level, strictly according to local regulations. These services are provided locally usually by external (3rd party) doctors appointed by the company. For the majority of our sites, the doctors are located off site. At a few of our larger sites, we have doctors who have a more permanent presence at the site to provide in-house services . The appointed doctors regularly attend the H&S committee meetings, which are organized by the local management to evaluate problems, issues and look at potential areas of improvement.

Oerlikon’s H&S management system requires that all sites established and maintain an industrial hygiene program. This program needs to be filled with the relevant medical input that anticipates and monitors workplace environmental stressors, which may cause illness or diseases to people. This allows for the implementation of mitigation actions, where needed.

All health and safety related information about employees is personal data, which is kept highly confidential in accordance with local labor laws and data privacy regulations. The Group’s Data Protection Officer has established strict internal data privacy procedures and regularly provides information and training on the topic.


Hazard identification risk assessment and incident investigation GRI 403-2

We strongly believe that everyone is responsible for understanding, meeting and upholding Health &
Safety requirements, and we call upon managers at all levels to lead the way in this regard. A Health & Safety team of specialists provides Group-wide implementation and monitoring of all related topics.

Oerlikon’s Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Committee establishes health, safety and environment
guidelines and processes for the company, drives the implementation of related programs and monitors their performance. The team, led by the Head of Group HSE, works across all sites and businesses. Standardization of HSE practices across the Group is facilitated by an online tool used to track and assign tasks to sites and to follow up on their implementation via an HSE balanced scorecard. For each site, Oerlikon tracks initiatives about training, safety leadership and risk management and conducts HSE compliance checks.

Oerlikon’s Health & Safety Management System guides Group-wide practice. The document has 21
chapters (see guidelines below) covering a broad scope of topics from safety leadership to safe working practices as well as health and wellness issues.

In addition to Group guidelines, we maintain Division, business unit and business line standards regarding HSE risks or processes and update these regularly. All sites are required to do an annual legal compliance check, which must be reviewed by a third party every other year. Our recordkeeping system enables meticulous tracking of and response to work-related injuries and significant near misses, which must be reported to top management and the Group HSE within 24 hours. Our scorecard and tracking system facilitates precision in response and prevention.


Work-related injuries GRI 403-9

Work-related injuries GRI 403-9

Since 2017, our key safety KPI has been the rate of recordable work-related injuries, internally referred to as the total accident frequency rate (TAFR).

This index was adopted instead of the previously used lost time accident (LTA) frequency rate, because the TAFR includes all injuries beyond those requiring only first aid. It is based on 200 000 hours worked.

In 2020, we reduced our TAFR by 23% to 0.68 compared to 2019. Compared to the initial baseline set in 2016, there has been a 48% reduction. The Business Unit Metco Aero & Energy made significant progress in ensuring health and safety, with a TAFR performance of 0.59, a 45% reduction versus the previous year.

The Group also tracks the severity rate due to LTAs. This measures the number of calendar days lost due to each LTA per 200 000 hours worked. The severity rate of 10.27 in 2020 represents a 14% increase over the previous year, which was historically low at 8.99.

In line with the 2018 GRI 403 on occupational health and safety, the definition of high-consequence work-related injury uses recovery time, instead of lost time, as the criterion for determining the severity of an injury. Recovery time refers to the time needed for a worker to recover fully to pre-injury health status. We currently do not measure recovery time, but intend to implement a process to track recovery time.


Worker training on occupational health and safety GRI 403-5

Our five Golden Health and Safety Rules begin: “No person is allowed to work for Oerlikon or to visit an Oerlikon site without having received adequate safety instruction and training.”

New employees must be trained in our general safety rules (the “golden rules”) before they can start working at any of our sites. Training covers site-specific rules that pertain to matters such as personal protective equipment, walkways and speed limits as well as workplace-specific rules. We recommend that training conclude with a test, but this is not mandatory. However, we do require that both the trainer and the trainee sign a written confirmation that training was conducted.


Workers covered by an occupational health and safety management system GRI 403-8

We extend this rule to indirect employees, such as short-term contractors or technicians servicing machinery, who must undergo the same procedures. Visitors must complete (and sign written acknowledgement of) safety instructions before being admitted to a site.

This is consistent with our practice of making no health and safety management distinction between
direct, permanent staff and temporary members of our workforce who are employed by outside agencies but whose work is controlled by Oerlikon (within legal limits). Our accident rates cover both types of employees in the same way.

Temporary workers accounted for 12% of workrelated injuries in 2019 and 5% in 2020, which is of the same proportion in their representation to our total workforce in each of those years.

Employee Engagement for Safety in the Workplace

Nudge techniques have been used to promote safety in the workplace for several years as a systematic way to influence behavior and decision-making. Following the successful piloting of these techniques and the highly positive feedback from employees in Germany, we are preparing to roll the program out globally in 2021.


Community Engagement: COVID-19 Response

It became very quickly apparent that COVID-19 presented challenges that Oerlikon and its technologies and capabilities could help meet around the world. Our initial act of global citizenship in this regard involved donating masks to China at the onset of the pandemic. We also contributed to the
care fund launched by India’s prime minister to provide support to patients.

As the crisis escalated, the world faced shortages of personal protective equipment that was desperately needed by health care workers. In March 2020, we responded by temporarily converting our Oerlikon Nonwoven R&D laboratory complex in Neumünster for the manufacture of nonwoven filtration material for masks production to help bridge the immediate shortage faced in Germany.

Further action in Germany came in the form of Oerlikon providing supplies to FleeceforEurope, a new venture that employs a meltblown system to produce high-end protective masks. When it was founded, this start-up set a goal of manufacturing and distributing up to 50 million respiratory masks (protection classes FFP1–FFP3) each month for the European market by the end of 2020. Oerlikon nonwovens deliver the virus-absorbing capabilities required of this protective gear.

Amid all these initiatives to meet global health needs during the crisis and utilize our technology as a service to the world’s heroic first responders, we also had to ensure our own continuity of operations and meet our obligations to our customers. They depend on us, and we took decisive action to ensure that their confidence in us is justified even during extraordinary times.

With disaster management plans in place, we had a roadmap established for contending with emergencies. But agility and resilience are also built into our ordinary day-to-day operations and our business model.

The company’s worldwide production and service network and global distribution of competencies in
our workforce gave us the capacity and flexibility we needed to shift responsibilities relatively seamlessly from regions in lockdown to those that remained in full operation. That was key to eliminating or minimizing disruptions to production timetables and preventing major project delays.

In this way, we were able to continue to deliver customer value almost without interruption and protect our people even as we redeployed team members, machinery and equipment to take part in global humanitarian missions in response to the crisis. We take enormous pride in having successfully executed a strategy that served the needs of the people, communities and customers who are always at the heart of our business.


Worker Participation, Consulation and communication on occupational health and safety GRI 403-4

Oerlikon operates around 180 sites in 37 countries. Each country is governed by local laws and regulations on the many labor and labor-related topics, including worker participation, consultation and communication.

The local set-up of workers participation and consultation is done in compliance with local regulation. Almost all sites have H&S committees, who addresses all health & safety topics. Due to the different local regulations, there are differences in the details of how participation, consultation and communication are done. Generally, workers’ representatives are members in these committees, together with a representative from management, a H&S officer and a company doctor. Meetings take place regularly several times per year and in many countries on a quarterly basis.

Oerlikon’s H&S Management system requires systematic involvement of concerned personnel in the risk assessment process and for investigating accidents and incidents. As part of the system, all concerned personnel are involved in lesson-learned sharing.


Promotion of worker health GRI 403-6

In the majority of the countries where Oerlikon operates, public health systems are in place giving Oerlikon employees access to non-occupational medical and healthcare services.

At Oerlikon, we have been implementing a number of global and local initiatives to promote workers’ health. Examples of local initiatives are a healthy nutrition campaign in Remscheid, Germany, enabling the usage of foam rolls in Kelsterbach, Germany, and providing incentives to the health plan in the US when employees download a health app to help them track their own walking, weight and cholesterol levels and to remind them to stay healthy.

Globally, Oerlikon has been conducting our annual HSE Day every year since 2015. On this day, all sites globally have program, activities and trainings focused on promoting a specially-defined health, safety and/or environmental topic. Past themes included ergonomics, drive safe, health and wellbeing “fit4life”, which focused on physical activity, healthy eating, sleep, stress management and avoiding toxic substances. In 2020, the global HSE day could not take place as usual due to the COVID-19. The focus in 2020 was shifted to implementing measures that would prevent infection and to address related workers’ health topics such as mental well-being since the pandemic required employees to adapt to new working, socializing, educational and family situations and challenges.

A global health initiative launched in 2020 was free flu vaccinations. In past years, many of our sites have been offering employees the possibility to get seasonal flu vaccination. In 2020, we made this a worldwide initiative, within the limits of local legal laws.

All Oerlikon sites were to offer seasonal flu vaccination for their employees as flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. In the fall of 2020, we further emphasized the importance of getting a flu vaccine, not only to reduce employees’ risk from flu but also to help reduce the potential demand and strain on scarce health care resources due to the pandemic. In many of our legal entities, this was already the usual practice for years. With the global initiative, we wanted to ensure that all Oerlikon employees globally can benefit from getting a free vaccination shot against the flu, if they chose to do so. The flu vaccinations were voluntary.


Prevention and migration of occupational health and safety impacts directly linked by business relationships GRI 403-7

Oerlikon takes all the necessary steps to ensure that all our products and services are safe. In cases where there are potential dangers of product use, Oerlikon provides H&S relevant information to adequately warn users about them.

The equipment and services from Oerlikon are designed and produced by Oerlikon to fulfill the highest safety standards. The Group considers requirements from the European machine safety directive and other legal requirements.

In our materials business, we comply with the relevant regulations and provide our customers with Safety Data Sheets for all materials sold. These Safety Data Sheets are prepared in compliance with the legal requirements of the applicable country to aid in the safe use, handling, storage and disposal of materials. These documents are updated on an as required basis.


Employee Engagement for Safety in the Workplace

Nudge techniques have been used to promote safety in the workplace for several years as a systematic way to influence behavior and decision-making. Following the successful piloting of these techniques and the highly positive feedback from employees in Germany, we are preparing to roll the program out globally in 2021.

Infrastructure investments and services supported GRI 203-1

Oerlikon has a global footprint that currently includes 179 sites in 37 countries. Generally, we adopt the Think Global and Act Local approach as each country has different needs and requirements.

For instance, Oerlikon India is committed to enhancing the quality of life in neighborhood communities through sanitation, care and education projects, and to supporting the government and NGO initiatives in the mitigation of the event of natural disasters and calamities. We place our focus on projects that support female and physically and mentally challenged children, that provide high-quality vocational skills development and education the employability of youth, that champion environment protection and conservation, that promote the use sustainable sources of energy, and that support the country’s heritage in performing arts and sports.

In recent years, we have donated dialysis machines, built a vocational training center for women, provided with sanitation facility and clean drinking water, repaired drainage systems and built a hybrid solar power 2020, we contributed to the care fund launched by the prime minister to support COVID-19 patients.

We currently do not track all activities and initiatives across the Group, but intend to set up a process and system to gather this data and report on the details in the near future.


Health and management system guidelines

  1. Visible Safety Leadership
  2. Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment & Mitigating Actions
  3. Legal Obligations
  4. Introduction & Training
  5. Good Housekeeping
  6. Roles, Responsibilities & Accountability
  7. Safe Working Procedures
  8. Hazardous Work Activities
  9. Performance Monitoring
  10. Contractor Safety Management
  11.  First Aid, Emergency Preparedness
    & Response
  12.  Learn & Share
  13. Management of Process Change
  14. Accident, Near Miss & Unsafe
    Situation Reporting, Investigation &
    Corrective Action
  15. Management Review & Planning
  16. Design Safety
  17. Document & Records Management
  18. Industrial Hygiene & Monitoring
  19. Health and Wellness Issues
  20. Occupational Rehabilitation
  21.  Audit & Compliance


Thomas Schmidt

Head of Group Communications