Management System Initiatives to Prevent Major Accidents Accidents and Occupational Injuries

Initiatives to Prevent Major Accidents

Based on our management policy of putting safety is our top priority in everything that we do, we have continued to implement a range of safety activities throughout the Mitsui Chemicals Group. Nevertheless, the explosion and fire occurred at the resorcinol production facility inside our Iwakuni-Ohtake Works in 2012. In fiscal 2017, a fire broke out at the Company’s Ichihara Works Mobara Branch Factory. We recognize that there are also many points that apply to the incidence at our Iwakuni-Ohtake Works on which we must reflect. In addition, a fire broke out at our Osaka Works in June 2018. We take this latest incident very seriously and will strive to prevent any future recurrence. Reflecting on that incident, we have been implementing a series of measures to prevent major accidents and fundamental safety initiatives to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again.

* Please refer here for details of fires that broke out at the Mobara Branch Factory and Osaka Works in July 2017 and June 2018, respectively.

Fire at Mobara Branch Factory

Fire at Osaka Works

Top Management’s Strong Commitment to Safety and Prevention

On Safety Day and during National Safety Week, etc., the Company president repeatedly conveys to all Mitsui Chemicals Group employees that they follow the management policy of "making safety their top priority in everything they do." The fiscal 2018 results are as follows.

  • Instructions to make safety the top priority provided directly to Head Office staff during the opening address (simultaneously broadcast to all domestic sites)
  • Broadcasting the President’s Safety Day message across the Group as a whole
  • Communicated safety instructions directly to employees at Head Office on Safety Day (simultaneously broadcast to all domestic sites)
  • Pledge to make safety the top priority published in Safety Day-related Company newsletters
  • Broadcasting the President’s National Safety Week message across the Group as a whole
  • Direct safety instructions provided during Works visits (control room, auditorium, etc.)

We are working to ensure active involvement with worksites that includes the Vice President, Senior Managing Executive Officer and the Center Executive of the Production & Technology Center by conducting tours of the parent company works and each production sites of domestic and overseas affiliates.

Fundamental Safety Measures

Mitsui Chemicals takes extremely seriously the explosion and fire at the resorcinol production facility at its Iwakuni-Ohtake Works on April 22, 2012. For these six years, we have been introducing a series of fundamental safety measures, reviewing and improving comprehensive safety and prevention at a company-wide level. A number of measures that have been developed after exhaustive discussions are now incorporated into our daily activities, and continuous safety improvements are being made by repeating the PDCA cycle in our daily tasks. While carefully weighing the priorities against each other in implementing these fundamental safety measures to raise safety levels, we will continue to introduce more initiatives in the years ahead.

Overview of Efforts Aimed at Advancing Fundamental Safety Measures

From the beginning of 2013, we built up the fundamental safety measures shown in overview in the chart below and conducted them on a Group-wide basis.

Key Points of the Fundamental Safety Measures

  • The steering committee*1, which reports directly to the president, deliberates Group-wide issues and sets the direction for activities
  • Management spearheads the participation in safety initiatives through active dialogue owing to greater opportunities for Head Office personnel to visit plants
  • Issues pointed out by external experts and other third parties are reflected in plant operations
  • General managers of Works give safety talks, while cross-sectional safety inspections are performed by safety advisors*2
  • Meetings among foremen organized by managers help to enhance communication

*1Steering committee:
To make swift progress of fundamental safety measures, the members shown in the diagram meet to discuss Group-wide issues and set the direction of activities.

*2Safety advisors:
Veteran employees involved in daily activities and improving the overall level of safety at plants by exchanging opinions with workers.

Progress with Fundamental Safety Measures

Addressing three important challenges and involving the deployment of 11 measures, the fundamental safety measures are used to advance concrete efforts throughout the company. Many of the initiatives have been pushed forward to the point where they are now positioned as everyday tasks. Regarding the recurrence prevention measures following the fire that occurred in the Mobara Branch Factory in July 2017, we focused on building a system that could inherit advancing safety technologies and on reviewing the technology assessment system in fiscal 2018. At the same time, we provided production line managers with thorough training on operating these systems. Unfortunately, a chimney fire occurred in the Osaka Works in June 2018 during periodic repairs. We are now discussing voluntary fire prevention measures to be applied during the management of subcontract work.

Progress with Fundamental Safety Measures
Three important challenges, 11 measures Implementation schedule (fiscal year)
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
(1) Allow line managers to focus on and properly manage worksites
Reduce the workload of line managers On an ongoing basis          
Train line managers On an ongoing basis   Strengthen
(2) Improve technical skills and ensure skills are passed down (clarify rights & responsibilities)
Train engineering staff with situational awareness On an ongoing basis        
Build safety technology systems On an ongoing basis   Strengthen
Review technical assessment systems and structures On an ongoing basis     Strengthen On an ongoing basis
(3) Ensure safety is the top priority, cultivate professionalism, and give workers a sense of accomplishment
Reorganize/boost functions of Safety & Environment Division On an ongoing basis     Strengthen
Reinforce safety as a top priority(strict adherence to basics, diagnosis)
Cultivate and bolster professionalism (Completely update manuals and draft supplementary materials) On an ongoing basis  
Improve teamwork and communications within organizations On an ongoing basis      
Establish attractive senior positions (Human Resources Committee, etc.) On an ongoing basis          
Measures to give workers a sense of accomplishment in safety performance and operations On an ongoing basis          

Thorough Risk Assessments

Mitsui Chemicals applies the HAZOP*1 to assess safety in the building, expansion, and refurbishment of facilities and to identify dangers in plants as a means of eliminating the possibility of accidents. Learning the lessons from the resorcinol production facility explosion and fire at the Iwakuni-Ohtake Works, we expanded to include non-routine operations at Works. In addition, the Company has been conducting non-routine risk assessments on a continuous and constructive basis. The Company will continue to undertake thorough risk assessments.

Fostering HAZOP Leaders

The role of the HAZOP leader, who is the leader of the analysis, is an important one. To foster HAZOP leaders at the Company, since fiscal 2013 we have been holding training sessions for manufacturing workplace staff and others for them to learn more about analysis methods and investigation concepts at each Works. We will plan to periodically hold these training sessions to foster HAZOP leaders and to improve the level of HAZOP.

Measures to Non-routine Risk Assessment

From fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2014, based on the inspection procedures established during emergency shutdowns by operating model plants at all Works on a trial basis, the Inspection Group organized at each Works conducted inspections of emergency shutdown procedures at all plants. Finally, Head Office staff conducted follow-ups on the inspection results for each Works.

From fiscal 2014, the Company conducted verifications of the assessment methods, for which both “What if *2” and batch HAZOP were utilized, at several model plants. Then, in fiscal 2015, at the Osaka Works and Ichihara Works, we began risk assessments related to the non-routine operation “startup” and applied to all Works and in fiscal 2016. We continue these procedures to all Works in fiscal 2019.

Hazard and Operability Study. A method to formulate safety measures by seeking any possible deviation from normal operations, and analyzing the cause of such deviation and its possible impact.

A method to formulate safety measures by repeating “What if…” questions to explore possible incidents and their impact.

Measures to Boost Seismic Resistance of Existing High-pressure Gas Facilities

In response to a notification issued by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in May 2014, the Company has almost finished an assessment of the seismic resistance of its existing high-pressure gas facilities. Based on the results of the assessment, the Company has formulated a repair plan and is systematically undertaking seismic enhancement work.

Re-accreditation of high-pressure gas self-safety inspection

Since the explosion and fire incident in the resorcinol manufacturing facility in the Iwakuni-Otake Works in 2012, our accreditation regarding high-pressure gas self-safety inspection of the works has not been updated. The works reapplied for accreditation in fiscal 2018, and successfully obtained it as of February 1, 2019.

Safety Culture Assessment

The Mitsui Chemicals Group is collaborating with Niigata University and the Graduate School of System Design and Management at Keio University to undertake safety culture assessment, which enable the visualization of a workplace’s strengths and weaknesses. By repeated in-house discussions on all rank-specific gaps, the assessment can also be used as a tool to improve workplace communications.

The second safety culture assessment took place in the Iwakuni-Otake Works, Nagoya Works, and Ichihara Works in fiscal 2018, four years after the previous assessment. The assessment were useful to discover the results of the workplace safety promotion activities and environmental changes around the workplaces over the past four years. All four affiliate companies were subject to the assessment.
The assessment results were found to be useful in helping employees to become aware of the safety culture operating in their workplaces, and we continue to utilize this assessment.

Briefing at Ichihara Works
Briefing at Ichihara Works

Status of Undertaking Safety Culture Assessment

Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.
  ~FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Ichihara Works*  
Mobara Branch Factory*  
Nagoya Works*  
Osaka Works*  
Iwakuni-Ohtake Works*  
Omuta Works*  

*Including subsidiaries and affiliates within factory premises where the parent company works manager bears the responsibility for Responsible Care implementation.

Subsidiaries & Affiliates
  ~FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
  • Toyo Beauty Supply Corporation
  • Sun Alloys Co., Ltd.
  • Sunrex Industry Co., Ltd.
  • Mitsui Chemicals & SKC Polyurethanes Inc. Tokuyama Factory
  • Utsunomiya Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. Utsunomiya Works, Funaoka Factory, Shinshiro Factory, Tosu Factory
  • Shimonoseki Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.
  • Yamamoto Chemicals, Inc. Yao Factory, Omuta Works
  • Mitsui Chemicals Industrial Products, Ltd. Saitama Office
  • Honshu Chemical Industry Co., Ltd. Wakayama Factory
  • Mitsui Hygiene Materials (Thailand) Co., Ltd.
  • Mitsui Chemicals Nonwovens (Tianjin) Co., Ltd.

Receipt of Third-party Assessments of Process Safety Capability

On an ongoing basis, the Mitsui Chemicals Group receives process safety capability assessments from the Japan Safety Competency Center. Aimed primarily at manufacturing industries dealing with petroleum and petrochemical products, the assessments cover security from the viewpoint of safety infrastructure and safety culture and enable the visualization of strengths and weaknesses with regard to safety capability by means of numerical values. Through its process safety capability assessments, the Japan Safety Competency Center is aiming to raise the safety level of the Japanese chemical industry, a purpose with which the Company is in full agreement.
Following on from the Osaka Works and the Ichihara Works, in April 2018 the Iwakuni-Ohtake Works conducted a self-assessment of its safety capability and then underwent an evaluation by the Japan Safety Competency Center.
We will continue to utilize advice from the Japan Safety Competency Center, a third party, in our future safety and process safety activities.

Assessment result report meeting (Iwakuni-Ohtake Works)
Assessment result report meeting (Iwakuni-Ohtake Works)

Summary of Results

Safety Infrastructure

The average assessment level for safety infrastructure significantly exceeds the 3.0 that is said to be the pass level for petrochemical and oil refining companies. As an average, the safety infrastructure management level is extremely high and considered to be the top level in the industry.

The average level of each of the 10 major items is higher than 3.0, the variation for each item is small, and thus it can be said that the management level is very high.

Although most of the assessment items are at level 3.0 or higher, we found several items that we believe to be in need of improvement.

Safety Culture

The average safety culture assessment level was significantly higher than the 3.0 that is said to be a solid level of safety culture and can thus be considered to be at the top level of the industry.

The average level of each of the seven major items exceeds 3.0, the variation for each item is small, and thus it can be said that safety culture is at a high level.

Currently, memories of the explosion and fire at the resorcinol manufacturing facility in 2012 remain strong. The value judgment of making safety a top priority is shared, from the top management to the frontline operator, based on the determination that an accident should not occur again. Meanwhile, the awareness that six years have passed since the accident continues to take hold. The number of employees who have no direct experience of an accident is increasing, so giving consideration regarding how to continue sharing that value judgment is expected to become necessary in the future.

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