Health and safety

As one of our core values, we put safety first in everything we do. We’re committed to ensuring every day at AkzoNobel is as safe as it can be. Ultimately, our vision is to achieve zero injuries and harm through operational excellence.

We do this through initiatives in the areas of people safety and health, process safety, and security. We report, analyze and learn from all our health and to continuously improve our safety performance. Our commitment is underpinned by our Life-Saving Rules and Golden Principle to stop work if conditions or behavior are unsafe.

People safety and health

In 2021, we focused our people safety program on forklift truck safety and safe driving in general. We also accelerated our life-critical procedures and Health, Safety, Environment and Security () roadmap program. We identified areas that need improvement in our own operations and put them on the roadmap with targeted plans and governance. In addition, we continued to invest in functional excellence and the development of our capability in the area of root cause analysis.

To ensure healthy working conditions for all our employees, we continue to actively manage occupational illness-related absenteeism. We’ve piloted a Wellness Checkpoint which supports the evaluation of psycho-social risk factors. We’ve leveraged the company-wide digital compliance assurance process to underpin our industrial hygiene and occupational health approach.

In 2021, the total reportable rate () for employees and temporary workers improved to 0.21 (2020: 0.23), meeting the target level set for 2021 (0.21). In total, 66% of our manufacturing sites have been reportable injury-free for over a year. The most frequent causes of reportable injuries are slips, trips and falls, struck by or caught in-between objects and manual handling. The most frequent injuries are strains/sprains, cuts/lacerations and fractures.

Our contractor performance improved in 2021, with a contractor reportable injury rate of 0.12 (2020: 0.17). The contractors decreased to 0.08 (2020: 0.11).

Unfortunately, there were two major incidents this year. A fatal injury involving an electronic pallet lift truck in Jakarta, Indonesia, and a pedestrian sustaining life-changing injuries after being hit by a forklift truck in Machelen, Belgium.

Total reportable injury rate employees including temporary workers

Health and safety – Total reportable injury rate employees including temporary workers (bar chart)

The total reportable injury rate (TRR) is the number of injuries resulting in a medical treatment case, restricted work case, lost time case or fatality, per 200,000 hours worked. In line with OSHA guidelines, temporary workers are reported with employees, since day-to-day management is by AkzoNobel.

Lost time injury rate employees including temporary workers

Health and safety – Lost time injury rate employees including temporary workers (bar chart)

The lost time injury rate (LTlR) is the number of injuries resulting in a lost time injury per 200,000 hours worked. Temporary workers are reported together with employees, since day-to-day management is by AkzoNobel.

Total reportable injury rate contractors

Health and safety – Total reportable injury rate contractors (bar chart)

The total reportable injury rate contractors is the number of contractor injuries resulting in medical treatment cases, restricted work cases, lost time injuries or fatalities, per 200,000 hours worked.

Lost time injury rate contractors

Health and safety – Lost time injuries contractors (bar chart)

The contractors lost time injury rate (LTlR) is the number of contractor injuries resulting in a lost time case, per 200,000 hours worked.

Process safety

In 2021, we continued our dedicated Process Safety Management (PSM) improvement project. This project is designed to strengthen our PSM program and processes to achieve leading standards in process safety. It focuses on high quality hazard studies and aims to harmonize safety critical equipment identification, introduce standards and improve capability building with critical leaders and front-line workers. This is supported by harmonized leading metrics. The project will continue in 2022.

Several activities took place to strengthen our culture of commitment-based process safety. We launched a successful global campaign to demonstrate leadership commitment and explain how all employees can contribute to process safety. We also introduced Basis of Safety (BOS) standards for resin manufacturing, aluminum bonding and high-speed dispersers that addressed these higher risk processes and defined company expectations for these activities. Various engineering standards have been adopted: for grounding and bonding; flexible hose management; and maintenance of solvent storage tanks.

We’ll start 2022 by implementing a training plan for Process Safety Fundamentals – focusing on capability building of front-line workers and proactively developing task-safe behaviors. We’ll also continue designing and implementing BOS and engineering standards.

Process safety events




Loss of primary containment – Level 1



Loss of primary containment – Level 2



Process safety event – Level 3



A loss of primary containment is an unplanned release of material, product, raw material or energy to the environment. They are divided into three categories, dependent on severity, from small, on-site spill/near misses up to Level 1.

Our (LoPC) Level 1 and 2 (number of spills) was higher than last year. The increased focus on process safety also resulted in a higher number of Level 3 (near miss) reports. These give essential input to our continuous improvement processes. The direct causes identified by our incident investigations mainly attributed the number of spills to operational discipline (35%) and asset integrity (42%). We saw an increasing trend during 2021 in spills related to handling of drums and IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) by lift trucks. In total, 69% of our manufacturing locations didn’t have LoPCs, demonstrating our vision of zero spills is achievable. However, 20% of our locations have caused 76% of our spills over the last three years. In our roadmap approach, we focus on those locations, ensuring the improvement plans act upon the underlying root cause.


Our security program protects people, information, assets and critical business processes, both on and off-site. We updated the classification for security incidents in 2021, creating four severity levels (from 0 to 3 based on severity of the impact of an incident). Incidents are also separated into three categories – crime against a person, property crime and financial crime.

Globally, there were 160 security incidents reported in 2021, broadly in line with previous years. Four were Level 3 (most severe events), of which the most severe incident was the looting of our manufacturing site in Umbogintwini (South Africa), resulting from organized political unrest in the region.

Theft and vandalism at our stores represented the highest incident sub-type – similar to wider society.

Responding to COVID-19

We assessed and responded to changing circumstances throughout the year. Our regional and local response structure proved invaluable, given the major regional differences regarding the impact of COVID-19. Central health and safety guidelines remained intact, supported by our Behavior Based Safety () program. Our guidelines were expanded by promoting the need for vaccination. We also supported our employees in receiving the vaccine and gaining access to adequate medical care in case of illness. In some areas, lockdowns caused our staff to remain at company premises overnight. In other areas, return-to-office/site was introduced in phases. We continue to monitor conditions and make adjustments where necessary.

We’re also supporting local communities in urgent need around the world. In Brazil, we donated food baskets to underprivileged communities struggling with unemployment. In Michigan, US, we supported the cultivation of more than 5,000 pounds of produce to meet the high demand for food. We also provided digital tools for children in India to ensure they could access online classes and continue to study while schools were closed. Meanwhile, in the UK, we supported STARS (Sexual Trauma and Recovery Services), based in Dorset. STARS offers support – such as free counseling and workshops – to help educate young people in schools, the vulnerable and victims of sexual and domestic abuse, who have been increasingly reaching out for support since the start of the pandemic.

HSE&S management foundation

Our company-wide HSE&S management system is globally certified to ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards, with ongoing transfer to ISO 45001. It includes policies, procedures, best practice and learnings. In 2021, we updated the self-assessment questionnaire used for continuous improvement and audits.

HSE&S audits are performed in three-year (for high hazard sites) to five-year (other sites) cycles. Due to COVID-19, we conducted the 2021 audit plan with minor amendments, including changing over to remote (55%) and/or hybrid audits (35%) when it was not possible for (all) auditors to visit a site.

Compliance assurance is a key HSE&S priority. It’s particularly important for ensuring our license to operate and business continuity, due to the fast-changing regulatory environment in which we operate. We take a proactive approach to implementing necessary changes, from both a risk mitigation and advocacy perspective. We continue to use a company-wide digital compliance assurance process, which includes a regulatory monitoring and alert system. It also features a self-assessment tool, which helps us to identify compliance with existing regulatory frameworks and stay up-to-date with the latest changes, as well as enabling proactive responses to new requirements.

Safety Day 2021

We invest in visible safety leadership and initiatives to foster employee engagement. During our 11th annual Safety Day, the theme was “Be human – Be safe”, which focused on three key messages:

  • Everyone makes mistakes – they happen because we’re human
  • We can design for error – we’ll work to limit the consequences
  • Learning is vital for improvement – ask “what failed?” rather than “who failed?”
Safety Day – Group of people (photo)
Safety Day – People with "Be safe be human" on their shirts (photo)

Employees and contractor partners around the world took part in our 11th annual Safety Day. The theme in 2021 was “Be human – Be safe”. Various activities were staged at our locations, with all the appropriate social distancing measures being carefully observed. 

Safety incident

We have defined three levels of safety incidents. The highest category – Level 3 – involves: any loss of life; more than five severe injuries; environmental, asset or business damage totaling more than €25 million; inability to maintain business; or serious reputational damage to AkzoNobel stakeholders.


Health, safety, environment and security.

Total reportable rate of injuries (TRR)

The number of injuries per 200,000 hours worked. Full definitions are in the Sustainability statements.

Lost time injury rate (LTIR)

The number of lost time injuries per 200,000 hours worked. Full definitions are in the Sustainability statements.

Loss of primary containment

A loss of primary containment is an unplanned release of material, product, raw material or energy to the environment (including those resulting from human error). Loss of primary containment incidents are divided into three categories, dependent on severity, from small, on-site spill/near misses up to Level  1 – a significant escape.


Behavior-based safety. A global program run at all AkzoNobel locations.