Finish chemical industry injuries falls

Paul Boughton

Heavy effort in occupational safety has yielded good results in the Finnish chemical industry for the second year in succession.

The number of injuries at work places in the chemical industry fell by almost 20 per cent in 2005 compared with 2004, when the fall was more than 10 per cent. The results appear in the annual report on the Responsible Care programme.

The particular aim of chemical industry companies' environmental, health and safety work in Finland has been to achieve a noticeable improvement in occupational safety work. The number of occupational lost-time injuries fell throughout the entire 1990s, but this trend came to a halt in the early 2000s. Now effort has started to yield results again.

In 2005, 11.1 injuries per one million man-hours worked occurred in the chemical industry. The reduction compared with the previous year was almost 20 per cent. The first signs of a turnaround were seen in 2004, when the number of lost-time injuries went down by more than 10 per cent. The severity of the injuries also diminished in both years. The injuries frequency rate in the Finnish industries as a whole is twice that of the chemical industry. The final aim of the chemical industry is, of course, zero injuries.

The progress of occupational safety just like that of other environmental, health and safety work is monitored and reported on annually as part of the chemical industry's international Responsible Care programme. In Finland 108 companies employing over 19,000 people are committed to the Responsible Care programme. The report containing information for 2005, which covers more than 80 per cent of the chemical industry's output in Finland, was published on 17 May 2006.

The annual report says that occupational safety is an elemental part of every employee's working day in the chemical industry. Every year all the employees take part in training with environmental, health and safety themes, and the reporting of near-miss situations, which is used for preventing injuries, is in operation in almost 80 per cent of the companies involved in the programme. A new work tool that has been introduced is the occupational safety card, which an employee receives on completion of training and passing a test. In 2005 the occupational safety card was being used by more than half the companies. It has achieved good results, particularly in the safety level among contractors.

Overall the environmental, health and safety work by the chemical industry has produced significant results in Finland. During the monitoring period that began in 1988, occupational injuries have fallen by almost 75 per cent. Correspondingly, air emissions with acidifying potential, proportionated to total production volume, have been reduced by more than 80 per cent, volatile organic compounds (VOC) by more than 70 per cent, water discharges with eutrophication potential by almost 40 per cent and potentially ecotoxic discharges by almost 80 per cent. The chemical industry invested EUR 70 million in environment, health and safety matters in 2005.

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