We monitor product safety along the entire product value chain. Our activities are based on globally applicable product stewardship standards which also relate to the use of products and to their transportation. We systematically examine potential risks that might arise from established products, products which are used in new applications or new products to be introduced into the market. We prioritise risk assessments on the basis of sales volumes and product properties such as toxicity.
In 2014, we paid particular attention to safety initiatives relating to acetylene gas cylinders. We conducted pilot projects in Malaysia and Bangladesh, where acetylene cylinders were fitted with a new type of sealing cap which is better at preventing damage to the valves and gas leaks when the cylinders are being transported in customers’ vehicles. From 2015, we are planning to fit the relevant acetylene cylinders around the world with these sealing caps. In parallel, we launched a training initiative in 2014 to raise awareness among customers of potential risks which might arise when acetylene is transported. We invested a total amount of approximately EUR 40,000 in these measures.
For those sites where highly hazardous chemicals are handled, we have developed standardised product safety assessments. In 2014, we focused our work in this area in particular on the regions of South & East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. To date, we have conducted such audits in 23 countries. Risk assessments have now been carried out for those sites that account for around 70 percent of our global sales revenue derived from the products concerned.
Depending on the risk potential, we also assess whether conditions are in place for the proper handling of gases on customer sites. In addition, we offer other gas handling services, such as inspection, maintenance and repairs relating to the supply of gases to our customers. We also organise training for both our employees and our customers to assist with the responsible handling of our products. In 2014, one of our in-house training programmes provided instruction about the safe handling of gases to around 5,800 participants in nine European countries.
Linde holds more than 18,000 safety data sheets in a variety of languages containing transparent product information. We are currently investing in a global system to ensure that this product information is up to date and consistent across all the regions and languages. We have set aside more than EUR 3 million for this purpose.
We continuously check the Group’s compliance with legal regulations. By 31 May 2013 – the second registration deadline of REACH, the EU regulation on chemicals – we had registered five substances with an annual production volume of more than 100 tonnes with the European Chemical Agency (ECHA). Around 4 percent of our sales revenue is derived from products which are subject to registration under the REACH rules. Not only do we work actively together with the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA), we also seek to engage with customers and suppliers to ensure the successful implementation of the provisions of REACH. Using our global Internet platform, we provide information about what we are doing to comply with our statutory obligations and which substances we have registered.
As the legally responsible manufacturer of medical devices, we are implementing the requirements of the European RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) in our Healthcare business around the world. When operating production plants for medical gases, our Healthcare product area complies with good manufacturing practice for pharmaceutical products. Against this background, we invested around EUR 24 million in Brazil in the period from 2011 to 2014 to continue to improve quality assurance in production processes.
Through our product stewardship programme, we also support the Global Product Strategy (GPS) devised by the International Council of Chemical Associations for the safe handling of chemical substances and the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.