Mitsui Chemicals’ Plant Operation Technology Training Center

Safety is essential for a sustainable society

A society with broad knowledge of safety

As advances are made in the automation of manufacturing equipment as well as equipment and facilities related to safety, the Plant Operation Technology Training Center has played a greater role because operators have had fewer opportunities to gain experience solving problems and veteran operators from the baby boomer generation are entering retirement in large numbers, posing challenges in passing their technical skills onto the next generation. Even while prioritizing safety, it is impossible to completely eliminate risks. With this in mind, we must train our employees with the skills to minimize accidents and problems should they arise and the ability to rapidly and precisely respond properly to risks. Mr.Toshihide Kihara, Manager of our Center, takes systematic steps to ensure specialized technical skills related to safety and manufacturing are passed down to the next generation, through both on-the-job training and off-the-job training on an individual works basis. However, he says that a place is needed for employees to learn the basics and principles of on-the-job training. The lessons learned at our Center have had measurable results for on-the-job training on production floors.
Since opening its doors, our Center has trained 5,000 employees of the Mitsui Chemicals Group. This includes 200 employees from China, Singapore and other overseas locations. Many of our customers who have visited the training center have said that they would like their own employees to train there as well.

Mr. Kihara says, “Manufacturing and safety go hand-in-hand at all levels of management. Our safety management technologies are the outcome of many long years of accumulated experience, and some of this know-how is a corporate secret that involves process technologies. However, top management made the decision to open up our Center to people outside the Group, because we believe a culture of safety is the foundation of manufacturing and providing this to society is a valuable contribution that only we can make.”

Toshihide Kihara
Manager, Plant Operation Technology Training Center
Safety & Environmental Technology Division,
Production & Technology Center

People able to identify, evaluate and solve problems are important to society

At our Center, we offer three courses: the safety training course, the equipment and operation troubleshooting course, and the operation training course. These aim of these courses is for veteran operators to pass along their technical knowledge and skills, thereby improving employee awareness of risks and dangers, their understanding of basic principles, and giving them the ability to identify problems on their own and the confidence to solve any issues.
In the safety training course, where participants learn about the dangers that can arise on production floors, emphasis is placed on practical training for awareness of five kinds of dangers: (1)pinching and rolling, (2)oxygen deficiency and poisoning, (3)falling down, falling objects, and falling over, (4)exposure to hazardous liquids, (5)fire, explosions and static electricity.
For example, in pinching and rolling training, participants place their hand under a roller with a safety shutoff, experiencing actual pain. For falling training, participants are strapped into a safety harness and dangled one meter off the ground. They also witness a training dummy falling to the ground to get a feeling of what heights are dangerous. The trainees come to understand the true meaning behind the saying “One meter height can cause one death.”
By noticing where risks lie waiting, and knowing what steps to take for safety, employees become aware of even more risks. This is where a culture of safety begins.

Fostering people who ask “Why?”

Focusing on the “why” in training techniques

Since opening our Center, Mitsui Chemicals has worked to establish training techniques that deepen participants’ understanding of the presence of danger and how to ensure safety.
Hiroshi Tanaka, serving as instructor, points out, “Instructors do not give any answers. They always ask why.” This training technique allows participants to be surprised by their experiences, which reawakens their senses to the true nature of danger.
For training about exposure to hazardous liquids, for example, trainees are asked to put their bare hands into hot bathwater and again while wearing cotton work gloves. Even though the temperature of the bathwater is the same as usual, soaking their hands in the water with cotton work gloves on makes it unbearably hot. “Why?” the instructor asks.
For falling object training, a tool is dropped from a height of six meters, shattering a ceramic flowerpot into pieces, but the same flowerpot with a helmet is protected without a scratch from the falling tool. The instructor continues their line of questioning. “What would happen to someone if they weren’t wearing a helmet?”

“There are many rules for your safety at worksites. Think about why these rules exist, and make yourselves more aware of the dangers around you.” (Tanaka)

Hiroshi Tanaka
Plant Operation Technology
Training Center
Safety & Environmental
Technology Division,
Production & Technology Center

Safety is a common goal around the world

Enhancing safety skills further through cultural exchange

Instructor Yamamoto says “Mutual understanding between different cultures has historically led to improvement in technical skills.” For example, the important practice of pointing one’s finger while confirming safety is considered rude in some countries. “Through experience, we understand there are common principles around the world for ensuring safety,” explains Mr. Yamamoto.
With the understanding that safety is a common effort worldwide, some Mitsui Chemicals Group companies overseas have launched their own safety initiatives. Siam Mitsui PTA Co., Ltd. (SMPC) in Thailand (see the column below) and Mitsui Phenols Singapore Pte. Ltd. (MPS) in Singapore are a few examples of this. Twice a year, there is a mutual exchange between MPS and our Center, as we continue to train leaders in safety.
The opening up of our training facilities to outsiders has made it a valuable learning center for small and medium-size companies that do not have resources to train their own employees. Mr. Kihara says he “aims to improve the quality of technical training by exchanging information and wish-lists with our customers by opening the doors of the Technical Training Center to others.” He believes “the center will play a vital role in fostering a culture of safety that crosses cultural boundaries in industrializing emerging countries and ensures a higher level of safety in advanced countries.

Kazumi Yamamoto
Plant Operation Technology
Training Center
Safety & Environmental Technology
Division, Production & Technology Center

In May 2015, 20 people from outside the company participated in the safety training course. For one day, the trainees learned about risks and safety in five categories.


Employee of an equipment manufacturer(30s)

“My company does not offer many opportunities to learn about safety, so I am thankful for the instruction and training here. Personally, I strongly felt the importance of being aware of danger, especially when helping out in roles different from your main job.”

Employee of a gas company(20s)

“I am used to my job now after working here for three years, but I learned that there are many risks around you that you may not have thought of yet. This is due to a lack of imagination about dangers and safety, underscoring how important imagination is for ensuring safety.”

Employee at an equipment manufacturer(40s)

“This spring, I was appointed the chief of the personnel and welfare department. Responsible for occupational safety, I learned about this training opportunity and decided to participate. I was able to go through safety training at Mitsui Chemicals that would have been difficult to arrange at my company, and I believe this will lead to better safety at my workplace.”


Independent safety initiatives taken by overseas affiliates and subsidiaries

For three companies in China that produce compounds (Mitsui Advanced Composites (Zhongshan) Co., Ltd., Zhang Jia Gang Free Trade Zone Mitsui Link-Upon Advanced Materials, Inc., and Mitsui Chemicals Functional Composites (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.), the China Compound Joint Training Seminar was held for the first time for three days in April 2014. Seven managers and heads of production departments participated as advisors, and the participants discussed safety, quality, and human resource development. Similar training has been available at the Technical Training Center in Mobara, but this marked the first time the training event was held locally.

At Siam Mitsui PTA Co., Ltd. (SMPC) in Thailand, which received the President Award for Production Section Awards in fiscal 2014, safety practices entail daily improvement in work habits centered on learning, inspection, sharing and improving throughout the workplace, as a part of ongoing Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) activities.
In addition to Ho-Ren-So (reporting, contacting, consulting), and KY (hazard prediction) activities, employees engage in a wide range of safety practices, through Process Safety Management (PSM), that SMPC started lately, such as sharing technical information, conducting Process Hazard Analysis (PHA), and strengthening Management of Change (MOC).
Our culture of safety has begun to spread across national borders.

Message from the President of SCG Chemicals Co., Ltd., a joint venture in Thailand

For supporting sustainable business growth

Increasing safety awareness is hard, cultivating safety culture is even harder. It is all about building right safety mindset and behaviors in people. Safety that is driven only by rules and regulations is unsustainable because people break rules, unintentionally or intentionally. Therefore it is always an uphill task to ensure that workplace is safe and people work safely. SCG Chemicals pushes hard every day to get to where safety becomes ingrained in people.
Leaders are expected to play important role in building safety culture by taking on leadership role model. We are also in the process of building a stronger process safety management to protect our operation process in order to detect and avoid any major safety incidents.
With the collaboration with Mitsui Chemicals, SCG Chemicals Operation Excellence Training Center (OETC) has been set up with the objective of training the trainers and builds on knowledge and best practices from our skillful senior trainers. The knowledge will pass on to freshmen for effective and safe petrochemicals plant operations. We believe that safety is the foundation to support sustainable business growth.

Cholanat Yanaranop
SCG Chemicals Co., Ltd.