DSM Integrated Annual Report 2020

What still went wrong in 2020

The year 2020 presented us with many challenges and opportunities. We integrated three major new acquisitions, carved out our Resins & Functional Materials business, and implemented two wide-ranging internal change programs. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, placed additional and wholly unexpected demands upon our company worldwide.

Despite the challenging circumstances we were able to maintain our high standards. Nevertheless, sometimes things still go wrong. Here we share the most significant incidents of 2020 across all three dimensions of People, Planet and Profit. This includes health, safety, environment, and security incidents (including fraud) as well as what we have learned from our businesses that has not developed as planned.

Preventing repeat problems requires us to understand each incident to the best of our ability. When an incident occurs, our first priority is to take care of any injuries and repair any damage. We investigate every recordable incident using a fixed root cause analysis method. We also trigger an improvement cycle, see Safety, health & well-being. We put new requirements or operating procedures in place as needed.

In line with our reporting policy, this overview includes not only incidents but also some serious near-misses. Near-misses are cases that did not result in injury, illness or serious damage but which could have done so. Even when a crisis is averted, it is our responsibility to learn from it and do better the next time. We have 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, and our reporting system for SHE and Security incidents.


Incidents involving falls

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland), a contractor fell from a step near the bottom of a flight of stairs and suffered an injury to his shoulder ligaments.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Belvidere (New Jersey, USA), an employee slipped while cleaning the floor and fractured his pelvis.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Mairinque (Brazil), a contractor truck driver slipped while getting out of the cabin of a truck. He suffered a number of fractured ribs.

At DSM Food Specialties Yantai (Shandong Province, China) an employee broke his foot descending a ladder, when the ladder slid under him and he fell to the ground.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Jiangshan (Jiangsu Province, China) an employee broke his thigh bone when he fell to the ground after stumbling over a manual pallet mover.

To reduce such slip & trip incidents, we emphasize the importance of ‘keeping eyes on task and mind on task’ through dedicated behavior-based training programs.

Other health and safety incidents

At DSM Nutritional Products in Naberezhnye Chelny (Tatarstan, Russia), an employee carrying out maintenance work broke his little finger when the bit of his hand drill jammed.

At DSM Biomedical in Exton (Pennsylvania, USA), an employee lost the tip of his thumb while carrying out maintenance work on an exhaust fan motor. To prevent similar incidents, a general retraining in the DSM Life Saving Rules took place.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Grenzach (Germany), an employee passed out after entering a restricted area due to lack of oxygen caused by an unintended nitrogen flow into that area. A colleague who was close by noticed that the technician was unresponsive and immediately initiated an emergency response. Fortunately, the employee quickly and fully recovered.

At DSM Food Specialties in Seclin (France), an employee broke his foot while trying to reposition a slipped calibration weight, despite wearing protective shoes.

At DSM Nutritional Product in Kingstree (South Carolina, USA), a fire occurred at the storage shelter for empty raw material bags. The fire did not lead to any personal injury.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Sisseln (Switzerland), an operator injured his left upper arm. As he was lifting a heavy filter flange, he lost grip with his gloved right hand and overstretched his left arm, causing a tendon rupture.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Ueberlandia (Brazil), an employee in the snake farm suffered a snake bite when checking with a stick on a snake that appeared to be dead, but was still alive.

At DSM Additive Manufacturing in Geleen (Netherlands), a contractor hurt his back while lifting a bucket as he was preparing a laboratory production batch.

Security incidents

At DSM Nutritional Products in Brazil, a truck carrying DSM products was approached by armed thieves on a parking lot near a gas station. The driver was threatened with firearms and had to hand over all DSM products that were in the truck. Fortunately, no personal injuries were sustained.

An IT service provider informed DSM that not all IT security controls for Cloud services used by DSM were found to be effective, leading to data privacy vulnerabilities. DSM reported this incident to the Dutch Privacy Authority. Afterwards the IT service provider informed DSM that all deficiencies had been rectified and that they had not found any evidence of a data breach.

While working for DSM Food Specialties in France, an employee was attacked, injured in the face and robbed of money by two thieves while walking back from a restaurant to his hotel.


At DSM Nutritional Products in Brotas (Brazil), a minor explosion occurred in a waste water collection tank due to anaerobic fermentation of a small amount of organic material at the bottom of the tank. Root cause analysis revealed that the explosion, which blew pieces off the top of the tank, had been caused by hydrogen produced by an unexpected fermentation process. Nobody was injured, nor did a loss of containment occur. The incident was reported globally across our operations, and measures were put in place to prevent any reoccurrence of this unusual incident.


At DSM Biomedical in Exton (Pennsylvania, USA), a balance sheet review revealed an item that had not been properly booked during an ERP system transition in 2018, and which negatively impacted the Profit and Loss statement for 2020.

At DSM Nutritional Products in Lalden (Switzerland), a power failure, attributable to the external power net operator, led to a loss of production for several days.

At DSM Nutritional Products (Netherlands), an error in the classification of raw materials imports led to an understatement of import duty liabilities. This understatement was reported to the Dutch Customs Authorities. It was rectified by means of a retrospective additional payment of import duties.

At DSM Nutritional Products (Switzerland, Indonesia), we had open positions in foreign currencies that were unintentionally not hedged, resulting in unplanned financial losses.

Safety, Health and Environment (SHE)
DSM’s policy is to maintain business activities and produce products that do not adversely affect safety or health, and that fit with the concept of sustainable development. The company does this by setting the following objectives: to provide an injury-free and incident-free workplace; to prevent all work-related disabilities or health problems; to control and minimize the risks associated with DSM’s products for their whole life cycle and to choose production processes and products such that the use of raw materials and energy is minimized; to evaluate and improve DSM’s practices, processes and products continuously in order to make them safe and acceptable to its employees, the customers, the public and the environment.