What still went wrong in 2018

We are always trying to improve, but sometimes things still go wrong. Here we share the most significant incidents of 2018 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 requires us to understand each incident to the best of our ability. When a problem occurs, we take care of any injuries, repair any damage, and act throughout with compassion. We also trigger an improvement cycle (see Safety, health & wellness). This includes investigating root causes and trying to eliminate them. We put new requirements or operating procedures in place as needed.

We apply zero tolerance to violations of the DSM Code of Business Conduct. We do 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 which could have done so. Even when crisis is averted, it is our responsibility to learn from it and do better the next time. DSM has a process in place to collect the information about incidents and some serious near-misses as presented in this overview, using various sources including our internal Letter of Representation (see Monitoring activities in Risk management) and our reporting system for SHE and Security incidents.


Incident resulting in a fatality

A tragic accident took place at DSM Nutritional Products in Pecém (Brazil). As a sea container was being prepared for unloading, one of its doors opened very forcefully, because a large bag had shifted position and was pressing against the inside of the door. A contractor was hit by the container door and lost his life. 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. We are supporting the affected families.

Other logistic incidents

At DSM Nutritional Products in Venlo (Netherlands) a contractor was caught by a reversing forklift truck. He suffered bruises to his foot and a laceration to his right elbow that required three stitches.

At DSM Nederland in Geleen (Netherlands) a contractor was injured in the face and sustained a fracture to the jaw while unloading a container with road plates for a demolition area.

As a result of the fatal incident and these two logistical incidents, we have included transport and warehouse safety in our revision of the DSM Life Saving Rules, leading to improved standards on warehouse safety across the whole of DSM.

Incidents involving falls

At DSM Food Specialties in Seclin (France) an employee slipped from the second rung of a ladder, falling to the ground. The ladder toppled over and landed on him, causing a broken thumb.

At DSM Resins and Functional Materials in Meppen (Germany) a taxi driver delivering mail to the site fell to the ground while passing through a doorway, resulting in a broken shoulder.

Other safety incidents

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland) a research employee analyzing samples experienced a severe skin reaction. There were no indications of incorrect handling or a spill of any kind and the employee was wearing the required personal protective equipment (gloves, safety goggles, and lab coat). The skin disorders observed were diagnosed as an acute allergy and the employee was exempted from this type of work in the future.

At DSM Engineering Plastics in Emmen (Netherlands) a fire damaged a part of the copolymerization control room. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland) three employees were working near a pump when the pump started to emit smoke and burst. The employees were contaminated with 1-pentol and were taken to hospital for treatment. The plant design has been reviewed and thorough actions have been taken to avoid similar accidents from reoccurring.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Jiangshan (Jiangsu Province, China) an employee lost three fingers of his left hand when they got caught in a running rotary valve, as the installed fixed guard had been removed. The application of the Machine Safety Standards on site has been reviewed and embedded in the inspection and maintenance system.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland) a contractor closing an elevator door had his middle finger caught between the elevator door and the door frame. The contractor's fingertip and nail were severely injured, and the contractor was taken to hospital for treatment.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany) an employee suffered abrasions to his thigh and bruised his foot. He was using a lifting system to maneuver a barrel when suddenly the barrel fell out of the lifting system and injured his leg and foot. The lifting system was taken out of service for further investigation.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Ames (Iowa, USA) an employee engaged in resealing a bag with an electric hand-held stitcher lost the top of his left index finger. The bag got jammed in the stitcher and the employee's finger was injured as he tried to release it. The stitcher was taken out of operation and a thorough review of machine safety risk assessments in the region has been completed.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Lima (Peru) a contractor was engaged in installing a new process filter. Working at a level below this contractor was another contractor, who was unaware of the potential risk posed by the activity being carried out above him and who omitted to look up. The bottom part of the filter that was being installed fell down and hit the contractor's thumb, resulting in a severe contusion and multiple bone fractures. As corrective actions, contractors at the site were retrained, safety supervision and inspections were ramped up, and the work permit process was strengthened.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany), chemical substances were released due to an unexpectedly violent reaction. The released chemical cloud was contained with water by fire fighters. No one was injured and no chemical substances were detected outside the building. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

Privacy incidents

An email invitation was unintentionally sent to 37,000 email addresses in- and outside DSM due to an incorrect attribute in a dynamic distribution list. The incident was reported to the Dutch Privacy Authority.


At DSM Nutritional Products in Piura (Peru) untreated wastewater containing oils and fats was discharged to an external drain. On discovery, the discharge was immediately stopped, and the external drain was cleaned up to the extent possible.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany) a leakage occurred in one of the bioreactors of the waste water treatment plant, requiring a shutdown of the plant for a week. This required some production units on the site to operate at reduced capacity for several days.


A product recall in the US was necessary for our process flavors that were blended by a third party on behalf of DSM Food Specialties, leading to claims from customers.

DSM Food Specialties in Delft (Netherlands) suffered a temporary lower output as a result of issues in fermentation. This required longer than anticipated to resolve.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Buenos Aires (Argentina) a fire destroyed a building that housed offices, a warehouse and three mixing lines for animal nutrition. All operations and office activities were stopped, temporarily transferred to other locations and resumed within three months after the incident occurred.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Brazil our animal nutrition business was hit by a truck drivers' strike, severely impacting the production and shipment of products to our customers.

At DSM Innovation Center an email was received from an online hacker claiming to be DSM's CEO, requesting assistance for an urgent money transfer. The receiver failed to recognize that the email address was not the actual email address of DSM's CEO, resulting in funds being wired from DSM.

At DSM Nutritional Products a man-in-the-middle attack of a suppliers' email account resulted in a money transfer by DSM to the wrong bank account.

With the increased incidence of cyber attacks, DSM recognized the need to raise employee awareness as a strong control measure. A DSM-wide Cyber Fraud Awareness e-learning was launched.

At Group Business Services a monthly debit tax balance was interpreted as a liability, resulting in erroneous payment to the Dutch tax authorities. Immediately after discovery of the error, mitigating measures were taken and the funds were fully recovered.

At Group Business Services an attempt to transfer money from the company to a fraudster's private bank account (instead of that of a supplier) was timely detected and prevented by carefully following the required procedures (no money was transferred).

At Group Business Services a double payment was made due to an incomplete set-up in the payment system. The money was fully recovered.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Mexico, trucks carrying DSM products were stolen on three occasions. In each of the cases the truck driver was forced to stop on the highway, severely threatened and had to hand over truck and cargo. Fortunately, there were no personal injuries.