Our safety management system is based on standards and guidelines which apply worldwide. It aims to eliminate risks for our employees, business partners, neighbours and other third parties as far as possible.
Audits are conducted to verify compliance with the prescribed standards at our business locations. Incidents which have particular relevance for safety are recorded worldwide in order to identify areas of weakness. In addition, we use a centralised data system to document near misses from which we can learn lessons. We prepare for events which might occur, such as natural disasters, serious crime and pandemics, by drawing up risk management plans. The relevance of these risk management plans was illustrated once again in 2017 when we had to deal with the impact of the hurricanes in the southern United States. We were able to maintain our business operations in the region by successfully implementing measures included in our risk management plans.
We also cooperate with the communities in the areas surrounding our business locations. In the course of 2017, we engaged in around 120 joint activities, which included safety training in conjunction with fire brigades or other local organisations.
Security in the digital realm is also a key factor in our business success, as many of our processes depend on a functioning IT infrastructure. Therefore we constantly perform reviews of our existing IT security systems, making improvements where necessary. As a result, we have developed a multi-layer defence system in order to protect us against external cyber attacks. We also provide our employees with training in this area on an ongoing basis, drawing their attention to ways of handling digital risks. In 2017, we introduced compulsory e-learning sessions for all employees and conducted regular simulations of phishing activity to raise awareness of the issue of cyber attacks.
In 2016, the Executive Board of Linde AG adopted a new safety strategy, introducing measures for improvement covering the years 2017 to 2020. In 2017, for example, safety targets were again set for executives in the operating business units. These targets were linked to salaries, so as to increase the sense of personal responsibility of those executives for safety at work. Furthermore, we continued to hold workshops during the year for managers in all regions and divisions to teach them how to promote safety-conscious behaviour within the workforce.
Once again during the reporting year, we received several awards from customers and industry organisations in recognition of our commitment to occupational health and safety and to transport safety. These included awards presented to us in South America, Korea and several European countries for many years of work with no accidents with days of employee absence.