Cooperation and engagement promote ongoing safety improvements for Dow
17 Dec 2018
Covering some 550 hectares, Stade is Dow Chemical Company’s largest German production site. Every year, around 1300 in-house staff and several hundred contractors produce some 3 million tonnes of basic and specialty chemicals.
Among these are propylene oxide, propylene glycol, solvents for paints, perchloroethylene, raw materials for polyurethanes, cellulose ethers, chlorine, sodium hydroxide solution and hydrogen in ten plants.
Personal protective equipment (PPE), including chemical protection garments, is vital for reliably protecting staff from hazardous liquids and solids.
Jens Thiede, SHE Specialist at Dow in Stade with responsibility for the selection and use of PPE, explains: "We have around 2000 different chemicals on our plant here and cannot purchase a dedicated garment for each product.
"We need products that reliably protect our staff from as many substances as possible. So, we had a good look around on the market and shortlisted a range of options.”
Before purchasing new or updated garments, Dow carries out comprehensive wear tests lasting several weeks or even months with its front-line staff to assess specific working conditions and whether the chosen garment can prove its worth under practical conditions.
Its eventual choice of supplier, DuPont Personal Protection, was prompted in part by that firm’s collaborative approach.
When coveralls for protection from liquid chemicals were being considered Dupont supplied comprehensive permeation data for its Tychem® 2000 C and Tychem® 6000 F products.
Our aim is to make sure this knowledge is put into practice and widely disseminated so our staff can work safely.
Jens Thiede, SHE Specialist, Dow Chemical Company
Likewise, for staff exposed to hazards arising from solids and dust, Dupont’s Tyvek® product line, such as Tyvek® 600 Plus were employed.
Thiede explained: "DuPont assists us with these tests by supplying sample garments in various sizes. Our staff enter their ratings on questionnaires covering criteria such as wearer comfort, fit, freedom of movement, handling, size range and, of course, the wearer's subjective feeling of safety.”
Continuous safety improvement
After a decade of cooperation, the aim is to ensure ongoing, continuous improvement in staff safety on the Stade site. Joint workshops to inform staff and partner companies about protective clothing in general, the characteristics of Tychem® and Tyvek® chemical protective clothing, the correct way to donning and doffing and proper disposal after possible contamination.
As Thiede says, "Participants in these training workshops pass on their knowledge to their departments and among their shift colleagues. Our aim is to make sure this knowledge is put into practice and widely disseminated so our staff can work safely.”
Safety insights can be transferred to other Dow sites in Germany and Europe to deliver a number of benefits. This generates cost savings because there is no need for further selection and assessment tests at each site. Also, it promotes greater harmonisation between sites and uniformly high occupational safety standards across Germany.
"DuPont has a single point of contact on the customer side and we are able to take delivery of larger quantities, making it a win-win situation for everyone", concludes Thiede.