What still went wrong in 2017

DSM is always trying to improve, but sometimes things still go wrong. Here we share the most significant incidents of 2017 across all three dimensions of People, Planet and Profit. This includes health, safety, environment, and security incidents as well as what we have learned from business that has not developed as planned.

Preventing repeat problems means understanding each incident to the best of our ability. When a problem occurs, DSM first tries to repair any damage, take care of injuries and act with compassion. We also trigger an improvement cycle (see Health & wellness). This includes investigating root causes and trying to eliminate them. We put new requirements or operating procedures in place as needed. For example, in DSM Nutritional Products, in response to the incidents with forklifts in 2017, a new business group standard on internal transport was developed and introduced.

DSM applies zero tolerance to violations of the DSM Code of Business Conduct. DSM does not disclose any personal details in cases involving individuals.

In line with our reporting policy, this overview includes incidents and some serious near-misses. Near-misses are cases that did not result in injury, illness or damage but could have done so. Even when crisis is averted, it is our responsibility to learn and do better.


Fatal incidents

Tragically, in September 2017 there was a fatal incident at our site in Augusta (Georgia, USA). One contractor passed away, another was severely injured and a third suffered less severe injuries in the same incident. The root causes have been thoroughly investigated and the lessons learned are being implemented. We are committed to the safety of all workers and will continue to pay close attention to contractor safety. DSM is supporting the affected families.

Incidents involving falls

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland), an operator missed his footing on the top step of a four-step ladder. He landed on his back, which resulted in swelling. He also landed on the back of his head, causing a slight headache. At the same place but in a different incident, a contractor came down a ladder and lost his balance on the second to last step. He stumbled backwards, and hit the top of a hand lever of a valve, resulting in a serious flesh wound.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Liaocheng (China), a contractor fell from a 1.8 m-high molding rack while climbing a scaffold of an office building that was being constructed. The contractor suffered severe head injuries.

At DSM Dyneema in Heerlen (Netherlands), an employee broke his ankle by falling down the stairs in a hotel where he attended a training.

Incidents involving forklift trucks

At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany), a pallet truck ran over the top of an operator's shoe. The operator's foot was broken in several places.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Campo Grande (Brazil), a contractor was struck by a moving forklift. He sustained fractures and a small displacement to an ankle.

At DSM Engineering Plastics in Togliatti (Russia), an operator stepped backwards and his foot was broken by the wheel of a forklift.

Incidents with allergic reactions

At DSM Nutritional Products in Ueberlandia (Brazil), an employee had an allergic reaction during venom extraction resulting from sensitization.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland), an operator who worked for four years in the Rocephin plant had an acute allergic reaction during shutdown revision work. The operator's allergy has been confirmed by extensive allergy testing.

Other safety incidents

At DSM Nutritional Products in Village-Neuf (France), hot water spilled onto an operator's abdomen, resulting in a second-degree burn.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland), a sample exploded in the lab due to overpressure. A lab technician suffered an eye injury despite wearing safety glasses.

At DSM Engineering Plastics in Geleen (Netherlands), a contractor employee got his finger caught between the door handle and the steel pillar of the building wall, leading to a permanent impairment.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Jaguaré (Brazil), an employee performing a repair inside a mixer was almost engulfed by hundreds of kilograms of product, because the right procedures for safeguarding equipment before starting the work (lock-out/tag-out/try-out) had not been followed. Fortunately, the employee did not have any injuries.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Lalden (Switzerland), a closed ammonia cylinder in an experimental laboratory set-up exploded due to overpressure, caused by failure of an electrical heating element (uncontrolled overheating). The incident resulted in only physical damage. Fortunately, no one was injured because the failure occurred overnight when nobody was present in the laboratory.

Privacy incidents

In November, some employees received an unexpected email from Uber. Many reported it as a phishing attempt. An investigation revealed that access to the travel and expense system was shared with Uber by a DSM employee in the US. DSM and Uber had agreed upon an exchange of data of US employees; however, the DSM employee accidentally provided access to data for all employees. Immediate actions were taken to close the link and Uber confirmed it deleted the DSM data immediately. Actions have been taken to prevent such a disclosure in the future. The breach was reported to the Dutch Privacy Authority, as well as one other incident related to phishing.


At our site shared by DSM Nutritional Products and DSM Food Specialties in Xinghuo (China), one of our production plants had to be stopped for three months because of odor complaints from a nearby residential area. An off-gas treatment system is currently being installed. In the meantime, the plant is running at reduced capacity.

DSM experienced several minor incidents that led to a loss of primary containment from our installations. For example, at our DSM Food Specialties site in Delft (Netherlands) nitric acid was released from the installation during maintenance work and at our DSM Dyneema site in Heerlen (Netherlands) the hazardous content of a vessel leaked on the floor due to a valve failure. In all cases, an immediate cleanup prevented any impact to the environment or harm to people.


At DSM Food Specialties in Seclin (France), a contamination was identified that required cleaning of the production line, causing a loss of production volume for several days. After cleaning the plant was restarted without further problems.

DSM Resins & Functional Materials incurred higher supply costs globally, caused by shortage of raw material.

At DSM Resins & Functional Materials in Waalwijk (Netherlands), raw material quality problems caused the loss of three days' production volume.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Brazil, a quality complaint has resulted in a financial compensation for the customer.

Due to the decision to shut down a power plant at DSM Nutritional Products in Jiangshan (China), employees stopped operations to protest against this decision. This caused a loss of production of several days.

At DSM Nutritional Products at Village-Neuf (France), a dispute with employees concerning the calculation of working hours was resolved by ruling of the industrial court of Mulhouse, resulting in an additional payment of wages.

Several employees received emails that were supposedly sent by the CEO, urgently asking them to transfer money to an external bank account. Thanks to the alertness of these employees, no other action was required after reporting these mails to our Information Security office.

A regional outbreak of avian flu in China caused people to eat less poultry meat than usual, resulting in temporarily lower market demand for the animal nutrition business of DSM Nutritional Products in China.

The animal nutrition business of DSM Nutritional Products in Brazil experienced the consequences of a serious third party reputation incident in the downstream value chain, often referred to as the 'weak meat' scandal.

DSM Nutritional Products (Personal Care business) suffered a production loss of several days caused by a 'force majeur' at an important raw material supplier.