We monitor product safety along the entire product value chain. Our global standards relate not only to the manufacture of products and their transportation, but also to the use of those products. We examine potential risks which might arise from existing products, products which are used in new applications or new products which have been recently launched onto the market. Key aspects to consider when we conduct risk assessments are the quantities of products sold and the properties of products such as toxicity. For locations where particularly sensitive chemicals are produced or handled, we have devised standardised product safety risk assessments.
In 2015, we developed a new global guideline on product stewardship, which brings together existing provisions relating to the handling of products. During the reporting year, we also continued to work on safety initiatives relating to acetylene gas cylinders. In various countries, we are testing the use of a new type of sealing cap for acetylene cylinders which is better at preventing damage to the valves and gas leaks when the cylinders are being transported in customers’ vehicles. In 2014, we had already launched a training initiative to raise awareness among customers of potential risks which might arise when acetylene is transported. We have invested a total of around EUR 40,000 in these measures.
We hold around 25,000 safety data sheets for our products in a variety of languages. We are currently implementing new software to help develop an automatic system for generating consistent product information in all regions by the end of 2016 in all the languages required.
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 services such as inspection, maintenance and repairs relating to the supply of gases to the customer. We also organise training for both our employees and our customers to promote responsible handling of our products. Through an in-house training programme, we provided instruction in 2015 to around 6,500 participants in ten European countries on how to handle gases safely.
We continuously check the Group’s compliance with legal regulations. We provide information on a global internet platform about how Linde complies with the provisions of REACH, the EU Regulation on chemicals. We are currently preparing for the third registration phase in 2018. Only a small number of the substances we produce are required to be registered under REACH. To ensure the successful implementation of the provisions of REACH, we also seek to engage with customers and suppliers and work together with the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA). When operating production plants for medical gases, our Healthcare product area complies worldwide with Good Manufacturing Practice for pharmaceutical products. As the legally responsible manufacturer of medical devices, we implement the requirements of the European RoHS Directive (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) in our Healthcare business around the world.
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. To ensure the highest possible levels of safety for patients over the entire life-cycle of our pharmaceutical products, such products are monitored on a continuous basis using the Vigilance Signal Detection System. Regular analysis is performed on the safety of pharmaceutical products.