The safety of our employees and the local communities in which we work is an important starting point in carrying out our activities. Creating a safe and healthy workplace and minimising the risks to the environment and local communities are therefore clear priorities.
We periodically report on our safety performance and systematically carry out analyses. This is the best way to monitor our performance. We are constantly learning and we strive for continuous improvement. Among other things, we established critical performance indicators with regard to incidents resulting in medical treatment and the number of pipeline damage incidents.
Safety is an important indicator of the quality of our work and involves a number of aspects, all of which relate to each other: work safety, process safety and external safety.
- Work safety involves the safety of our own employees and contractors. This may be jeopardised, for instance, in the event of human errors, an integrity problem or pipeline damage caused by our operations.
- Process safety means that we try to limit the risks of the uncontrolled release of dangerous substances and/or energy. In the case of gas transport, this mainly concerns natural gas that is transported under high pressure, natural gas condensate, nitrogen and odorant.
- External safety concerns the impact that Gasunie’s infrastructure may have on its surroundings. For example, underground pipelines may be damaged by excavation work.
Below, we describe our main safety results.
Number of incidents and sickness absence
In 2017, 32 incidents occurred (2016: 47), of which 16 reportable incidents (2016: 19). This results in a Total Reportable Frequency Index (TRFI) of 3.2 (2016: 3.5). There were 7 incidents resulting in absence (2016: 10).
TRFI Gasunie Netherlands + Deutschland
The number of reportable incidents at Gasunie Deutschland remained low, at 2, while a strong decrease could be seen at Gasunie in the Netherlands: from 18 to 14. The total number of hours worked by Gasunie employees and third-party employees (which are relevant for the calculation of the TRFI) decreased slightly from 5.43 (million) to 5.02 (-8%). The decline in the number of hours is largely attributable to the decline in the number of projects, particularly at Gasunie Deutschland.
Number of reportable incidents
Pipeline damage incidents
In 2017, 4 incidents of pipeline damage occurred as the result of a mechanical action. There has been a downward trend since 2013, whereby the number of incidents of damage was exceptionally low in 2016, at just one. Three of the incidents of pipeline damage could potentially have resulted in pipeline failure and gas leaks. In these cases, an excavation contractor hit a Gasunie pipeline during excavating work. In one case, the pipeline was cut through by a steel cable being used to hoist a power cable being drawn through, resulting in a gas leak.
Total number of pipeline damage incidents
In order to prevent damage by excavation work, the current location of our pipelines is on record with KLIC and the safe location of our entire network is inspected by helicopter every three weeks.
To safeguard the integrity of our pipeline system, we systematically inspect part of our pipeline system each year. In 2017, we inspected 290 kilometres of pipeline internally (using pig runs) and 96 kilometres externally (using above-ground inspections, External Corrosion Direct Assessment (ECDA)).
The Safe@Gasunie Experience workshop started in March 2017. This is part of the Safe@Gasunie programme aimed at structurally improving safety awareness and behaviour. This workshop is a custom-developed ‘Experience’ in which the participants ‘follow an internship’ at an organisation resembling Gasunie. During the internship, they experience what both individual action and good cooperation in the chain (from initiative, design and construction all the way to completion) mean for safety. In total, more than 1,300 people have participated, divided into 91 mixed groups: employees from Gasunie and employees from contractors throughout the country and from all departments, including members of Gasunie’s Supervisory Board and Executive Board.
Based on the evaluation of the Experience, new activities have been started to bring our safety awareness and the preconditions for this to the next level, such as:
- the Gasunie advisers involved in the Experience engage in dialogue with all managers about the results and what is done with the results of the Experience in their department;
- the results of the Experience have been incorporated in our management development programme ‘Impuls’;
- these are worked out in a diagram to increase clarity about the chain. Everyone can then see what links make up the process, who is responsible for what and what handover moments there are. The first link involves performing maintenance and the safety processes linked to this;
- we will start conducting incident investigations across departments so that all the people involved in the chain can provide their input.
On many fronts, work is also carried out on less eye-catching activities, such as updating the hazard identification and risk assessment, improving incident investigation, publishing ‘potentially serious incidents’ bulletins, and providing information and instruction.
Achievement of the highest safety standards through a successful implementation of our Safe@Gasunie programme has been made measurable. The target for the TRFI was set at less than 3.4 in 2017 and less than 3.0 from 2018 onwards. The target for pipeline damage incidents with actual/potential gas leaks was set at less than 6 in 2017 and less than 5 from 2018 onwards. These targets were achieved in 2017.
The success of the programme cannot be determined solely on the basis of the measurable targets. The improvement has not yet reached the level of the ambition: it has been determined that, especially, working according to agreement, accessibility and usability of procedures, awareness of risks and safety leadership all need to be strengthened further.
Employees may be exposed to hazardous substances in the transport of natural gas and related activities. We treat these with great care. Some of these substances are naturally present in the gas transport system, while others are used during maintenance activities, or in operating facility equipment at our offices, for instance. The last category of hazardous substances concerns those used in the past (asbestos), for instance, or created in certain processes (welding smoke and diesel smoke). Our own employees and employees of our contractors may be exposed to these. In 2017, investigation was carried out into the possible exposure to mercury fumes and benzene fumes during work and the measures to prevent this. The hazardous substances we use are registered in a central database (Toxic). In 2017, based on the information in this database, we started replacing the CMR substances (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic, Reprotoxic) with CMR-free substances. After that, we started with a baseline measurement at one of our locations as preparation for an extensive investigation into the exposure to CMR substances and other hazardous substances during work that will be performed in 2018.
Contractors working at Gasunie also used Eurogrit contaminated with asbestos during blasting operations. Immediately after this became known, measures were taken to prevent further spread and to chart out any exposure. Wherever any asbestos-containing grit was still present, it was decontaminated by contractors in accordance with the applicable regulations.