Women in our workforce
Our employees are key to our success, and as a result, we invest significant resources in ensuring we are an employer of choice in all the regions where we operate. We support our employees and we support their right to collective bargaining.
We engage in constructive dialogue with our employees and their representatives. Umicore renewed the Sustainable Development Agreement with the international union IndustriALL in 2019. The agreement covers the global implementation of a number of policies including Human Rights, equal opportunities, labor conditions, ethical conduct, environmental protection and the participation of trade unions in the pursuit of these objectives. See the full text of the agreement here.
2021 was the year of the launch of the Let’s go for Zero strategy, including a comprehensive people strategy. Engage@work is an extension of our Umicore values, in which we focus on caring for all our colleagues. Engage@Work has four pillars:
Diversity & Inclusion - the way we think
Agile way of working - the way we lead
Learning & Growth - the way we learn
Wellbeing - the way we care
Umicore believes in entrusting a large degree of autonomy to each of its business units. Following the strategy announcement in June 2021, corporate HR engaged with the business units to translate Group-level ambitions collaboratively into objectives tailored to the individual contexts of each business unit and the sites and regions in which they operate. In the second half of 2021, implementation focused on the Diversity & Inclusion and Wellbeing pillars.
We believe in equal opportunities, fairness, inclusion, and diversity. We welcome all individuals regardless of age, cultural background, disability, ethnicity, gender, marital status, political opinion, religion, or sexual orientation. We value a mix of ambitions, approaches, educational backgrounds, experiences, interests, personalities, skills, and views. Diversity of thought can only improve innovation and ultimately performance at Umicore.
As a global company, Umicore is diverse by nature. As we continue to build opportunities for diversity, we will also now direct our efforts toward building even more inclusion.
Umicore strives to be a preferred employer of both current and prospective employees, and we are committed to their wellbeing and to ensuring that Umicore is a healthy place to work. Umicore promotes and safeguards physical, mental, social and occupational health in the workplace, because wellbeing is fundamental for a thriving workforce. Reducing stress and understanding local work cultures are key elements of our Wellbeing@work programs.
We do not compromise on safety and seek to create an accident-free working environment for all. We are committed to further developing our safety standards and to setting up a safety culture across all sites. Care is the basis to lead Umicore to zero work related injuries which is the target set in our Let’s go for Zero strategy.
Umicore is committed to providing competitive salaries and working conditions to our employees and to providing occupational and professional training opportunities. We empower all Umicore employees to contribute to Umicore’s success. Performance is appraised regularly and rewarded equitably. 2021 was a year of record performance thanks to all Umicore colleagues, who stayed safe and kept operations running despite another year of COVID-19. Our caring culture reinforces the sense of belonging at Umicore, which is also reflected in the fact that we maintain a strong retention rate.
WORKFORCE, BY REGION
Number of employees
EMPLOYEES REPRESENTED BY A UNION
OR COLLECTIVE LABOR AGREEMENT (CLA)
Our employees are key to our success, and as a result, we invest significant resources in ensuring we are an employer of choice in all the regions where we operate. We support our employees and we support their right to collective bargaining.
In 2021, the total workforce increased by 320 employees to a total of 13,639. The number of employees in the fully consolidated companies increased from 10,859 at the end of 2020 to 11,050 at the end of 2021, mainly due to growth in the Asia-Pacific, Europe and South America regions. The most significant increase relates to the further development of the cathode materials production site in Poland. Amongst the associated companies there was an increase of 129 employees in 2021. While all the associated companies saw an increase, Element Six Abrasives had the biggest increase despite the divestment of the Wuxi plant.
Most Umicore employees work on a full-time basis, as illustrated by the full time equivalent (FTE) of 10,828 (consolidated), which is very close to the reported headcount of 11,050 employees.
Umicore has had a systematic Group-wide internal reporting on Code of Conduct matters since 2011. In 2021, a total of 25 cases were reported, involving a total of 33 employees. The majority of these cases were about personal misconduct. The type of action taken varies from a warning letter to dismissal.
Implementation of the Sustainable Development Agreement with IndustriAll is overseen by a joint monitoring committee. All Umicore sites are screened internally each year. In 2021, this screening showed that none of Umicore’s sites demonstrated a particular risk of infringement of any of the principles of the agreement.
Umicore supports the right to organize collective bargaining agreements. While such practice is commonplace in Europe, in other locations collective bargaining mechanisms and trade unions may be less common or face local legal restrictions. In 2021, the highest representation was in South America and Europe and the lowest in North America. With a slight increase from 66.38% in 2020, 66.94% of Umicore employees belong to a trade union organization and/or the level of their wages were negotiated through a collective bargaining agreement in 2021.
Umicore is committed to upholding the right to adequate remuneration for all employees and the principle of equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value. Remuneration and all other benefits are based on the principle of fairness and are defined on the basis of whichever is highest among the following criteria:
national legal standards, or
standards of the national branches, or
collective labor agreements
As part of the Let’s Go for Zero strategy announced in June 2021, Umicore will start measuring and disclosing more formally how we apply the principle of pay equality.
WORKFORCE AGE SPLIT
% of employees
WOMEN AT UMICORE
% of employee category
An inclusive work culture is essential for every employee to feel well at work and to be prepared for success.
In the context of the Let’s Go for zero strategy and in the spirit of leading by example, senior management has received training about inclusion and how to activate it. An e-learning on unconscious bias is offered to all hiring managers as part of the recruitment process and on a local level, many diversity & inclusion training sessionsare conducted.
I’m fascinated to learn that everybody has unconscious biases and that we can learn to change these biases in a positive way.
Besides training, Umicore has installed several networks and employee resource groups (ERGs), including the Focus on Women network and a regional LGBTQ+ network .These are voluntary, employee-led groups that share a common interest, identity, experience or common bond. The groups provide a safe space for employees to support one another, focus on career development, and support the organization. ERGs also encourage a culture of inclusiveness and belonging. For more, see Finding your voice.
We also build strong ties across different generations within the Group: one example is in the R&D team at the Automotive Catalyst business unit. A sounding board of young colleagues was put into place to share ideas and thoughts with more senior colleagues. Every six weeks, they debate on strategic topics for the business unit and offer their suggestions to senior management for potential further development.
Umicore is a global company headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. As our global footprint continues to grow, we seek to increase the diversity of experiences and cultures across the Group, and in particular in senior management. A better balance in this regard will enable us to make business decisions that are strongly aligned with the markets we serve.
One way to measure this is by looking at the diversity of nationalities: in 2021 our employees covered 75 nationalities. The share of non-European representation in senior management positions increased to 21.57% in 2021 from 20.13% in 2020, as a result of increasing awareness of business needs and closer follow-up of talent to broaden the pipeline of candidates.
We set ourselves the Let’s go for zero target of gender parity as soon as possible, with an intermediate goal of 35% of women in management by 2030. In 2021, 22.48% of Umicore employees were women, which is only a slight increase from 21.68% in 2020. This incremental rise is attributed to the nature of industrial operations, where candidates are usually men. Despite this, women in management roles have increased from 23.06% in 2020 to 25% in 2021.
Umicore recruits on the basis of competency and throughout the organization there is a firm belief that increasing diversity of thought is beneficial to our capacity to innovate. To meet our gender diversity goals, our overall focus continues to be on recruiting and developing female managers and in 2021, 45% of managers recruited were women, up from 30% in 2020. Several actions were taken to reach this number, including the implementation of gender-neutral job descriptions, communication campaigns featuring female colleagues and increased usage of job platforms with a specific focus on a diverse inflow of candidates. The type of management position and location of the role were also factors in increasing the diversity of the candidate pool. The high inflow of women into management positions in 2021 does not mean that there are no hurdles: the nature of the jobs in the technology sector, the reality that in some geographies graduates for certain positions are mainly men, and the ongoing war for talent remain challenges. The Women in Business Program shows how Umicore is tackling some of these challenges.
TRAINING time, BY employee category
Average hours of training per employee
TRAINING time, GENDER SPLIT
Average hours of training per employee
To anticipate and seize opportunities in the market and to respond quickly to customer needs, Umicore is adopting an agile way of working. Agility is our ability to anticipate, adapt and respond quickly to change. Agility means we engage in building a collaborative workplace where employees take the initiative, challenge the status quo and propose new solutions, across business units, functions and regions. All employees are encouraged to take ownership and to lead from wherever they stand.
In 2021, we introduced our unique leadership model – the Leadership Compass – which has three pillars: win from within, engage with impact and go beyond borders. It combines a winning approach, an entrepreneurial attitude and engagement with teams and colleagues: our leaders instill their passion and drive, care for their colleagues, engage with their teams for a common goal and calculate risks by looking beyond their own horizon. We have clarified the expectations of senior management and integrated these behaviors into our way of recruiting, our assessment tools, training, talent review, succession planning and our project management.
Employee mobility is a way to bolster an agile way of working: working in more than one country, business unit or job family stimulates employees to adapt and to respond quickly to change.
My expat experience means getting out of my comfort zone, adapting to new environments, being open to new ideas and appreciating different ways of working … all these competencies are key for the agile, dynamic organization Umicore is striving to be!
At Umicore we engage in creating a culture of continuous learning where employees take ownership of their personal and professional growth. Our prime focus is developing future-oriented skills and behaviors in our workforce. Umicore promotes career development using an internal online vacancies tool and we operate a Group-wide learning management platform called “My Campus”. Specifically to strengthen our digital competencies, Umicore has introduced the Umicore Technical & Digital Academy to strengthen technology skills and share learning. We prepare for future transformations and seek to acquire the right skills that will contribute to Umicore’s success.
Especially due to COVID-19, training at Umicore is increasingly in a blended learning format. Digital transformation requires reskilling and upskilling. The Digital Heroes program stands as an example of Umicore embracing peer-to-peer learning. The 300-strong community of employee volunteers has dedicated itself to learning the latest digital workplace tools for efficiency and effectiveness in their jobs. They share knowledge with each other and find answers to each other's questions via Umicore’s enterprise social network so that they can pass on that knowledge to their colleagues. The result is a self-learning workforce based on a global network.
Umicore also offers programs for emerging talent, middle and senior managers. The Junior Management Program (JUMP) is offered to a selected group of junior managers using a “twin-coaching” format, bringing together two participants from different regions and business units, to develop international thinking, shadow best practices and provide exposure to other business units. Leading for Excellence (L4E) is offered to a selected group of managers in the Asia Pacific region to drive performance in the region by fostering collaboration and engagement across sites and sharpening leadership skills. Entrepreneurs for Tomorrow (E4T) is a program for a selected group of middle to senior managers to develop corporate culture with highly competent managers and promote cross-functional integration within Umicore. Due to COVID-19 these programs were either on hold or conducted digitally in 2021.
In 2021, the average training time per employee reached 42 hours, higher than 36 hours in 2020. This was partly attributed to the increased offering of online training, coupled with face-to-face training where possible while still respecting the COVID-19 measures prevailing at the time. In 2021, managers training hours (42 hours) were slightly higher than for other employees (41 hours) and women training hours (43 hours) were slightly higher than for men (41 hours). We noticed the average training hours for the gender and managers and other employee categories splits are reaching close to similar values, which we see as a positive trend.
In 2021, 94.14% of all employees from fully consolidated companies had an appraisal interview to discuss their development at least once during the year.
PARTICIPATION IN EMPLOYEE SURVEY
VoluntARY LEAVERS Rate BY REGION
In 2021, we conducted the 8th edition of our People Survey – Umicore’s employee opinion survey that is organized every three years. It provides insights on how we perform as an organization and - more importantly - how we can continue to grow and make progress. There was an overall participation rate of 80%, which shows a remarkable level of engagement. For the second time in succession our overall average is above the Chemical Industry norm1 and approaching the High Performing norm2, with significant progress made in several areas since our last survey in 2018.
Collaboration and care for each other came out as clear strengths for Umicore and underline the true spirit of the #UmicoreFamily.
Care is key to avoid work-related injuries and reach Zero Harm, one of the pillars of our Let’s go for zero strategy. However, today we have yet to achieve this ambition. The first key steps in achieving our Zero Harm objective include encouraging everyone to become safety leaders and safety coaches. The survey highlighted that the engagement and vitality of our management population is very high. Gender inclusion is also very high, which is a proxy for total inclusion. Women in Umicore feel at home. Men and women have a similar scoring on questions such as collaboration, meaning that they have the same voice in the company.
The results of the People Survey also demonstrate that we still have room to become more agile as an organization in today’s fast-moving context. We will continue to drive more entrepreneurship, encourage colleagues to take initiative across business units, sites and regions and foster accountability. Therefore, employees are invited to lead from where they stand according to our Leadership Compass.
Applying and embracing the Compass and its three pillars – win from within, engage with impact and go beyond borders - will help us become more agile and stay ahead of the pack. The People Survey results have been shared with the business units, sites and regions to be translated into local action plans that build on our strengths or address areas of improvement.
Our employees are key to our success and the driver for reaching our desired business growth. As a result, we aim to ensure Umicore’s status as an employer of choice in all the regions where we operate. In 2021, Umicore received the Top Employer certification in Belgium for the 16th successive year.
In 2021, our overall retention rate decreased to 94%, from 96% in 2020. In 2021 the voluntary leavers rate increased to 5.82% from 4.20% in 2020. Significant regional differences in retention rates continue, with Asia-Pacific reporting the highest voluntary leaver rate at 11.62%. The higher voluntary leaver rate in Asia-Pacific is not unique to Umicore and can be explained by a highly competitive and fluid labor market in that region. Except for Korea, Umicore’s voluntary leaver rate is lower than the market in most Asian countries including China, Japan, India and Thailand. In general, the war for talent is also experienced in the other regions. Of the voluntary leavers worldwide, 19.16% were women, slightly up from 18.78% in 2020.
We are proud of our position as a pioneer and world leader in materials technology and sustainability, and in a disruptive industry, we need to continue innovating, challenging the status quo and growing, both as a company and as an employer.
At Umicore, we aim to create a healthy workplace where employees can grow, thrive and take care of each other.
For many years, Umicore has strived to offer a great place to work and we are committed to wellbeing as part of our values in The Umicore Way. As the intensity of jobs has increased over the years, our Zero Harm pillar of the Let’s go for Zero strategy focuses on the Wellbeing@Work program with care as a cornerstone.
Wellbeing is essential to the overall health of our employees and therefore crucial to the professional performance and success of Umicore. It stimulates personal performance and engagement and thus improves productivity, safety and retention. It is also crucial to enable Umicore to attract young talent and to create a greater sense of belonging. Umicore is working on four areas of wellbeing: we promote and safeguard physical, mental, social and occupational health in the workplace, adapted to individual and regional circumstances. We find ways to connect with each other and with the communities in which we operate.
We want to improve knowledge and raise awareness on critical aspects of mental wellbeing. Mental health is a growing concern and the real issue of digital fatigue was accelerated by the pandemic. For all managers and supervisors, enabling tools such as training and burnout prevention are being developed and made available. This overall program is supplemented with regional initiatives, for example Umicore Brazil organized a ‘Pink October Campaign & Mental Health’ event. A physician and an employee discussed the importance of preventive exams for breast cancer and the benefits of meditation for mental health.
To ensure physical wellbeing, voluntary preventive health checks to all employees are offered and across the Group local health plans are under development to intensify individual health promotion and counseling on critical topics such as nutrition, weight, smoking prevention, cardiovascular risks, substance abuse, etc. This work is supported by local campaigns on health topics. See some initiatives our Polish teams took for their mental and physical health here.
In terms of social wellbeing, it is imperative to strengthen the sense of belonging among colleagues, teams and with supervisors and neighbors. Our People Survey – as described in employee engagement – confirms that people feel proud to work for Umicore and we want to maintain this engagement through ongoing dialogue with our employees.
Offering safe and healthy workplaces is crucial to ensure occupational wellbeing and in the following chapters, we describe our 2021 performance in occupational health and safety.
To promote Wellbeing@Work, Umicore emphasizes prevention for excessive stress at work and burn-out on three levels. First of all, it is important for the organization to create and maintain a working environment where people feel safe and can grow and thrive. Giving people the necessary autonomy in their job, balancing authority with competences, ensuring a proper work-life balance, open communication and digital hygiene are a few examples of how Umicore is seeking to achieve this healthy working environment. Recognizing and monitoring early symptoms is secondary prevention and finally, coaching and support are essential in case of problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed even more how important it is to maintain the wellbeing and vitality of our employees. Many regional initiatives contribute to this goal:
In 2021, operators from our production site in Shirwal in India stayed in a hotel for weeks as they were asked to stay in quarantine between working hours. Individual counseling via a hotline was available to them 24/7 to provide support in case they experienced difficulties.
In Umicore South America, external experts called all employees working from home to identify any mental, physical or logistical challenges. The management team was successful in resolving some of the identified issues and the vast majority of the employees were proud of Umicore’s actions and support, or very satisfied with them, during the pandemic.
See more on how Umicore cares for its people here.
Due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, Umicore introduced a new Group-wide teleworking policy: if the role and the nature of the tasks allow it, employees can be allowed to work from home. A better work-life balance and a continued sense of belonging were the inspiration for this policy – aiming to contribute to more Wellbeing@Work.
The baseline to measure Umicore’s performance in wellbeing will be established in 2022.
REPORTING SITES WITHOUT LTA
LOST TIME ACCIDENTS
Lost timE accidents, by business group
Number of LTAs
The safety of our people is a key priority.
Umicore is committed to ensuring the highest level of safety in all its facilities, with our Let’s go for Zero ambition to achieve zero work-related injuries. In 2021, our overall safety results were again disappointing despite 81.3% of the reporting sites operating without any lost time accident and 59.3% of those sites being ISO 45001 certified. Umicore recorded 73 lost time accidents in 2021 compared to 49 in 2020. 62 lost time accidents, representing 85% of the total, occurred in Europe and of these, 51 lost time accidents occurred on Belgian sites and 9 on German sites. The Asia-Pacific sites accounted for 7 accidents. 3 lost time accidents occurred on North American sites and 1 on a South American site. In total 2,328 calendar days were lost due to lost time accidents, a decrease compared to 9,176 in 2020. 20 lost time accidents were registered for contractors compared to 17 in 2020. The lost time accident frequency rate was 3.70, an increase from 2.52 in 2020 and the severity rate was 0.12, a decrease from 0.47 in 2020. There were 104 reported recordable injuries, down from 119 in 2020. The recordable injury frequency rate for 2021 was 5.28 compared to 6.13 in 2020.
In 2021, the Catalysis business group recorded 6 lost time accidents compared to 7 in 2020. The business group has implemented a new safety organization with a steering committee of senior managers defining the priorities and strategy and ensuring that the necessary resources are available. Focus areas are safety leadership programs, risk competency, engagement of the entire staff and organizational learning. All Automotive Catalysts production plants are required to be certified against the ISO 45001 management system. At year-end, the sites in Port Elizabeth (South-Africa), Himeji (Japan) and Rayong (Thailand), had operated over 5 years without any lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accident to contractors on site. The sites in Auburn Hills (USA), Karlskoga (Sweden) and Tokoname (Japan) had operated more than 3 years without a lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accident to contractors.
The Energy & Surface Technologies business group recorded 11 lost time accidents, compared to 8 in 2020. The sites further deployed their safety actions around 3 main pillars: ‘men’, ‘machines’ and ‘methods’. At year end, the sites in Dundee (UK) and Tsukuba (Japan) were recognized for their excellent and sustained safety performance, recording over 10 years without any lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accident to contractors. Balzers (Liechtenstein) operated more than 5 years without any lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accidents to contractors. The site in Hsinchu Hsien (Taiwan) operated more than 3 years without any lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accidents to contractors.
The Recycling business group had 49 lost time accidents compared to 34 in 2020. The site in Hoboken (Belgium, Recycling) reported 43 lost time accidents compared to 27 in 2020. The site is deploying a comprehensive safety program based on cultural change including a thorough safety leadership program and continued investment in technical safety. To support these programs, organizational changes were made, including hiring new head of the safety department and setting up a professional fire department. At year end, the UMS site in Bangkok (Thailand) operated 3 years without any lost time accident or recordable injury to Umicore staff and no lost time accident to contractors.
The general services and corporate offices, including Corporate Research & Development counted 7 lost time accidents.
Umicore continues its internal HAZOP leader training program to increase and secure process safety knowledge. In 2021, process safety activities focused on executing process risk assessment studies. At year end, over 81% 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 prioritizes processes with high risk profiles. The Group is also further reinforcing standards on critical process safety aspects. Over the course of the year, Umicore continued with the roll-out of programs aimed at creating a more prominent caring safety culture with a focus on growing a coaching mindset and lowering the level of risk tolerance. Umicore’s commitment to safety is unwavering. Tackling cultural change in terms of safety is the only right path to creating a safe and great place to work. To that end, following the newly implemented Let’s Go for Zero strategy, Umicore is implementing a ‘Coaching4Safety’ leadership program and a mandatory risk competency program for all sites, to support evolving to a caring safety culture. To further develop and deploy Umicore’s safety vision and strategy, Umicore is hiring a Group Safety Director.
Exposure Ratio, all biomarkers aggregated1
- 1 Ratio between the number of monitoring results exceeding the Umicore target value, defined for relevant hazardous substances, and the total number of monitoring results.
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).
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. 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 surveillance program. The Let’s Go for Zero target for occupational exposure is to reduce to zero the number of individual readings that indicate 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. We aim to have no exceedance of the biomarkers of exposure for the following metals and target values:
Arsenic: 30 micrograms per gram of creatinine in urine
Cadmium: 2 micrograms per gram of creatinine in urine
Cobalt: 15 micrograms per gram of creatinine in urine
Indium: 1 microgram per liter of plasma
Lead: 25 micrograms per 100 ml of blood
Nickel: 30 micrograms per gram of creatinine in urine
Platinum salts: no new cases of platinum salt sensitization
In 2021, a total of 7,228 biological samples were collected from employees with occupational exposure to at least one of the metals mentioned above (platinum salts excluded). 106 readings showed a result in excess of the internal target value, bringing the total excess rate to 1.5 %, down from 2.0%1 in 2020. All occupationally exposed employees are regularly monitored by an occupational health physician in line with regulatory requirements and Umicore’s occupational health guidance.
Occupational exposure to arsenic is possible in the business groups Energy & Surface Technologies and Recycling. In total, 12 employees or 1.3% of the 906 occupationally exposed workers had an excess reading during 2021, slightly more compared to the 0.8% excess rate in 2020. This increase is mainly due to 3 excess readings at the Hanau site (Germany, Catalysis) of operators cleaning a contaminated container. All workers occupationally exposed to arsenic are submitted to a medical surveillance program to closely monitor their health condition.
Occupational exposure to cadmium represents a potential health risk in the business groups Energy & Surface Technologies and Recycling. Cadmium in urine is an excellent biomarker for lifetime exposure. In 2021, a total of 426 employees had an occupational exposure to cadmium. Only 1 employee recorded a cadmium in urine reading in excess of the target value. This resulted in an excess rate of 0.2%, the same as in 2020.
In total, 2,041 employees are occupationally exposed to cobalt, mainly in the business group Energy & Surface Technologies. The number of employees exceeding the target value was further reduced to 45, resulting in an excess rate of 2.2%, down from 2.7% in 2020. In the business unit Rechargeable Battery Materials we noted an excess rate of 0.9% in 2021, a slight decrease from the 1.2% excess rate in 2020. The excess readings in the business unit Cobalt & Specialty Materials were at 10.6%, comparable to the performance in 2020. The sites in Cheonan (Korea, Rechargeable Battery Materials) and Jiangmen (China, Rechargeable Battery Materials) continued and maintained their comprehensive ‘zero dust’ management plan. This ‘zero dust’ program focuses on equipment improvements and workers’ behavior. Concrete actions include technical improvements, awareness programs, regular industrial hygiene campaigns, excellent housekeeping and improved maintenance of critical equipment. The business unit Cobalt & Specialty Materials intensified its dust reduction program with the focus on technical improvements, encapsulation of equipment, enhanced ventilation systems and strict application of personal protective equipment procedures including respiratory mask fit testing for each exposed employee. While over the past years progress has been made, the sites in Olen (Belgium, Energy & Surface Technologies), Fort Saskatchewan (Canada, Energy & Surface Technologies) and Grenoble (France, Energy & Surface Technologies) continue to report the highest excess rates. For workers exposed to cobalt, both business units Cobalt & Specialty Materials and Rechargeable Battery Materials have implemented Umicore’s occupational health guidance for cobalt, including biological monitoring and medical surveillance.
The business group Energy & Surface Technologies has exposure to indium. Indium in plasma is an excellent biomarker for lifetime exposure. In 2021, the biological monitoring program as well as the annual occupational health surveillance check at the site in Balzers (Liechtenstein, Energy & Surface Technologies) had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The checks are now scheduled for the 1st quarter in 2022, so we cannot report the 2021 performance in this annual report.
Occupational lead exposure represents a potential health risk, mainly in the business group Recycling. In 2021, Umicore lowered its internal target value for lead from 30 µg/deciliter blood to 25 µg/dl blood. In total, 1.4% of the 1,271 occupationally exposed employees exceeded the target value of 25μg/100ml down from 2.5% in 2020 (restated excess rate for 2020 following the lowered target value). The decrease in excess readings is the result of continued improved workplace hygiene measures mainly at the lead refinery at the Hoboken site (Belgium, Recycling). The site continues to implement improved engineering controls while ensuring timely training for newly hired staff. Strict attention is paid to personal protective equipment compliance. Because of the lowered target level for lead in blood, the occupational health department has intensified its biological monitoring program to follow up more closely on employees with higher lead in blood values.
The business groups Energy & Surface Technologies and Recycling have occupational exposure to nickel. In 2021, a total of 2,405 employees were exposed to nickel. In 2021, 30 of the exposed workers exceeded the target level resulting in an excess level of 1.2% compared to 2.0% in 2020. The business unit Rechargeable Battery Materials saw a significant decrease in excess readings from 2.4% in 2020 down to 0.5%% in 2021, mainly related to reduced exposure at the site in Jiangmen (China, Energy & Surface Technologies). A targeted program focusing on technical improvements, raising awareness and training programs as well as improved personal protective equipment compliance contributed to this result. The site in Subic (Philippines, Energy & Surface Technologies) reported an increased excess rate of 20.2% compared to 10.7% in 2020, mainly due to increased production volumes. The site is deploying a comprehensive dust reduction program.
The business groups Catalysis and Recycling have workplaces with exposure to platinum salts. In 2021, there were no newly diagnosed cases of platinum salt sensitization.
Other occupational related diseases
The number of occupational diseases is the number of employees with a newly diagnosed occupational disease during the reporting year.
In 2021, 8 employees developed a musculoskeletal disorder due to their occupation. All the people concerned are being followed up by an occupational health physician. The production site in Kokkola (Finland, Energy & Surface Technologies) was not able to report its numbers.
Over the past years, Umicore has been confronted with several burn-out cases that led to long-term sickness with impact on both the individual and the organization. During lock-down periods of the pandemic, many office employees had to work from their home office and often for longer periods, and as a result Umicore rolled out awareness campaigns to help prevent and fight against digital fatigue. Measures to ensure the wellbeing of employees included regular virtual contacts among team members, leaflets on the company’s intranet with tips and tricks to organize teleworking, online social events, and more.
Wellbeing@work is an important program under the Let’s Go for Zero strategy. Both regional and Group programs are being put in place.