What still went wrong in 2016


Although we continuously strive to improve our performance in all areas of DSM’s activities, sometimes things can still go wrong.

This chapter summarizes the most significant incidents in 2016, across the three dimensions of People, Planet and Profit. We endeavor to remedy the outcome of incidents and prevent these from recurring, as well as to identify and learn from business developments that have not progressed as planned. To this end, we investigate the root cause of any serious occurrence and take steps to close the loop to eliminate the cause and start the improvement cycle. Measures are identified and communicated as appropriate, including applying stricter requirements or operating procedures if called for.

In 2016, DSM took steps to raise awareness about mindful behavior among its workforce. In many cases, our own actions are a major contributory factor to the cause of injuries. Rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency; being in or moving into the ‘line of fire’; losing balance, traction or grip – all these things can lead to unintentional risky behavior and injuries. Several sites provided courses to support participants in increasing their awareness and promoting a mindful way of working, thus reducing injuries — at work, at home and on the road.

Mindfulness employee with helm

Where necessary, consequence management is applied to individual employees based on the DSM Code of Business Conduct. We do not disclose any personal details in cases involving individuals.

In line with our reporting policy on Safety, Health and Environment and Security, this overview includes not only actual incidents but also some serious near misses. These are incidents that did not result in injury, illness or damage, but had the potential to do so, and are therefore used as a learning opportunity.


  • At DSM Engineering Plastics in Genk (Belgium), liquid material spilled over the edge of a container onto an operator’s forearm. Some of the hot material ran into his glove, causing second degree burns to the back of the right hand. In a separate incident at this site, an operator was scalded when hot water splashed onto his right forearm while removing a piece of melted material.
  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Jiangshan (China), a contractor suffered a fractured toe when he was hit by a reversing forklift, whose driver had failed to notice him.
  • At DSM Food Specialties in Seclin (France), an operator was caught by a sudden release of condensate from an open pipeline, causing burns to both of his legs.
  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Mszczonów (Poland), an operator put his right hand on a conveyor and kicked the closing mechanism. The conveyor started to close, nipping the operator’s hand in the process. He was taken to hospital and needed four stitches.
  • At DSM Engineering Plastics in Emmen (Netherlands), an operator put his hand into the vacuum dome of an extruder to clean it, unaware that the extruder screw was still slowly turning. His glove and fingers were caught by the screw, resulting in the (partial) loss of three fingers on his right hand. In a separate incident at the site, a hot mixture of lactam and water flowed into an operator’s shoe during a draining operation. The operator was sent to a specialized hospital where he had to undergo a skin graft.
  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Schenectady (New York, USA), an operator’s hand was outside the forklift he was driving when it became caught between the forklift and a wall, injuring his hand.
  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany), a hose came loose during a standard restart procedure, spraying a calcium hydroxide solution, some of which got into an operator’s eyes. The operator was treated on site then taken to hospital. A light but reversible erosion of the cornea of the right eye was diagnosed.
  • At DSM Hydrocolloids in Tongxiang (China), a cabinet was being moved on a pallet by trolley when it toppled over, catching a contractor as it fell. This resulted in hairline fractures to the pelvis and an open wound to the right leg.
  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Mairinque (Brazil), a truck exploded during unloading. It transpired that it was pressurized at the time. Fortunately nobody was hurt. The on-site learnings following this incident focused on more specific and additional contractual requirements for haulage companies as well as the institution of an audit program to ensure that the equipment these suppliers use is fit for purpose. This prompted several other sites to also run checks with their suppliers.
  • During implementation of a new online tool for employee performance management, a data security flaw was discovered which potentially could have led to a privacy incident. Immediate response actions were taken and the flaw was repaired before an incident could occur. Awareness training has been instigated around new and stricter privacy laws.
  • In the US, DSM Biomedical was informed by a supplier that there may be a risk of contamination by glass particles in two of its products. After an initial investigation, we could not exclude the possibility that DSM's products may have been contaminated with glass fragments in turn, with potential risks to patient health. The products were recalled as a precaution and undelivered stock quarantined. This rapid response prevented any further consequences.
  • In São Paulo (Brazil), an employee was tragically killed when commuting home on his motorcycle after working a night shift. Despite the fact that the company provides private transportation as a benefit to all employees in Brazil, the number of employees opting for the flexibility of their own means of transport is increasing. Besides offering transport, DSM offers alert driving e-courses to raise awareness around safe driving.


  • In 2016, DSM again experienced a number of more minor incidents that led to a loss of primary containment (LOPC) from our installations. For example at one of our sites around 11m3 of ethanol was lost due to a leaking flange connection, and in another site 200 liters of hexane was lost in the tank bund when the hexane tank was overfilled. In both situations an immediate cleanup prevented any impact to the environment. The resulting waste was properly disposed of. DSM is committed to continue to reduce these incidents. A clear reduction was achieved in 2016 compared with 2015, which is reflected in the number of Process Safety Incidents recorded. For more information on this KPI, see Safety and health.


  • At DSM Nutritional Products in Heanor (United Kingdom), a section of the roof of a production tower was damaged in a fire following an explosion caused by a self-heating reaction resulting from cross-contamination of certain raw materials. Changes have been implemented in cleaning frequency and raw material dosing to prevent this from happening in future.
  • Cybercrime attempts have become a fact of life for organizations large and small; DSM is no exception. There were various incidents of attempted cybercrime during 2016, including once again online fraudsters posing as DSM’s CEO or someone close to him, appearing to send email instructions relating to financial or privileged information to employees (Brazil, Japan, the Netherlands and Turkey). Thanks to the watchfulness of the employees involved, no monies were transferred. In addition to regular reminders to employees, one of the ways we raise awareness about cybersecurity is by executing ‘phishing’ mail tests.
  • Theft of material from a warehouse was discovered by a customer who notified us that the product was being offered online. The incident was investigated, the product was removed from eBay and inventory procedures tightened to prevent theft.
  • On arrival at a customer premises, a shipment of a DSM product was discovered to have been tampered with; 20% of the product had been stolen and replaced by sand. Although this was an isolated incident, improved quality checks on the original sealing have since been made part of the standard logistics process.
  • At one of DSM’s shared financial service centers, an employee transferred money into a private bank account, defrauding the company. Appropriate consequence management was applied. Procedures were investigated in detail and safeguards including segregation of duties were re-enforced.
  • Two cases of fraudulent expense report claims were discovered in the US, whereby hotel invoices were changed to show a longer stay than was actually the case. The employees concerned received sanctions and additional controls on expense claim checks were implemented.
  • Some production restrictions at DSM Food Specialties in Seclin (France) prevented the enzyme business from fully benefiting from continued strong customer demand.