Health & safety

The safety of our people is a key priority.

Zero accidents

In 2020, while 83% of the reporting sites operated without a lost time accident, our overall safety results were again disappointing. In December 2020, a fatal accident occurred at Umicore’s Cobalt & Specialty Materials site in Subic, the Philippines. This tragic event shows once more that the journey to make Umicore a zero-accident workplace is far from completion, even in sites with an outstanding safety track record such as Subic which had operated more than 13 years without LTA.

Umicore recorded 49 lost time accidents in 2020 compared to 90 in 2019. The frequency rate was 2.52 (4.60 in 2019) and the severity rate was 0.47 (0.20 in 2019).

Lost Time Accidents


Reporting sites without LTA


Exposure Ratio, all biomarkers aggregated


In the past we reported that there is a clear need to change behavior and mindset to install a true safety culture. While absence from the workplace due to the COVID crisis did not have an impact on lost time accidents, we have noted that health precautions tied to the crisis did improve the safety culture at Umicore. The sense of urgency in the face of the crisis, the purposeful care of one another combined with a workplace communications style that focused on safety coaching resulted in improved safety performance. Umicore’s commitment to safety is unwavering, and these results have confirmed that tackling cultural change in terms of safety is the right path to creating a safe and great place to work.

In 2020, process safety activities focused on executing process risk assessment studies. At year end,over 70% of the production processes had received specific process hazard and risk assessments compliant with Umicore standards. A detailed timeline for completion of the remaining studies over the coming years gives priority to processes with high risk-profiles.
Umicore continues our internal HAZOP leader training program to increase and secure process safety knowledge.

Umicore is leading the industry by setting voluntary, science-based targets for potentially hazardous exposure that are more stringent than legal requirements, where they exist.

Occupational exposure

Umicore makes continuous efforts to eliminate occupational-related health issues and to promote wellbeing in the workplace. The main occupational health risks are related to exposure to hazardous substances and physical hazards (mainly noise).

All employees with a potential workplace exposure to any of the target metals (arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, indium, nickel, lead and platinum salts) or other metals are monitored by an occupational health program. The Horizon 2020 objective for occupational exposure is to reduce to zero the number of individual readings that indicate an exposure for an employee that is higher than the internal target levels. While these excess readings do not necessarily indicate a risk for the person concerned, they are important indicators of recent or lifetime exposure and are used as the basis for further improvements on specific sites.

In 2020, a total of 7,406 biological samples were taken from employees with occupational exposure to at least one of the metals mentioned above (platinum salts excluded). 122 readings showed a result in excess of the internal target value, bringing the total excess rate to 1.6%, down from 1.8% in 2019 and 3.2% at the beginning of our Horizon 2020 strategic cycle. All occupationally exposed employees are regularly monitored by an occupational health physician.