West Iceland’s Largest Workplace


We are proud of Norðurál’s economic importance and the part we play in utilizing of one of Iceland’s most valuable resources: the clean and sustainable energy harnessed from rivers and geothermal steam. But we are no less aware of the company’s social value as the region’s largest workplace by far. We strive to maintain a safe and enjoyable workplace for all employees, and we actively support a wide range of socially beneficial causes.


Our employees


As west Iceland’s largest employer, Norðurál is committed to maintaining a desirable workplace that offers a variety of challenging jobs for all genders. In 2022, the company had 600 permanent employees, of whom 21% were women and 79% were men. Employees’ average age was 40.2 years, 40.6 years for men and 38.6 for women. The average length of employment was 8.6 years, 9.2 for men and 6.3 for women. Around 67% of staff live north of Hvalfjörður, with 57% in Akranes, and around 30% live in the Reykjavík area.

*Numbers reflect the status of permanent staff at year-end 2022. The average number of full-time equivalent positions during the year was 604.


Staff turnover in 2022 was 13.73%, and the gender ratio of those who terminated their employment reflected the gender ratio as a whole. The company welcomed 57 new employees to permanent full-time positions. In addition, 64 staff members who previously held temporary positions were given permanent jobs. During the summer, 185 students worked as substitutes for permanent employees; of these, 100 were new to the company, while 85 returned for their second or third summer. Although we did not achieve our goal of an equal gender ratio for seasonal employees, 42% of temporary summer staff were women.


Gender equality is a primary objective in our recruitment, and we endeavor to balance gender ratios with new hires. This means there are opportunities to recruit more women as production staff and tradespeople, as well as engineers and technicians in middle management.


As in the previous year, Norðurál received an Equality Scale award from the Association of Businesswomen in Iceland (FKA). The award recognizes companies that have taken measures to increase the number of women in senior management and that have achieved a more balanced gender ratio at the executive level. FKA aims for a 40/60 gender ratio on executive boards of Icelandic companies by 2027. Of the seven members of Norðurál’s board, three are women.


Norðurál has a certified equal pay system in accordance with the ÍST 85:2012 standard and has been awarded a Gold standard in PwC’s equal pay audit for four consecutive years, or since the audit was first conducted. In 2022, a maintenance audit of the equal pay system by BSI confirmed the system is designed to achieve the objectives of the company’s equal pay policy. The unexplained gender pay gap at Norðurál is 1.8%.


The vast majority, or 85%, of Norðurál’s workforce belongs to the labor unions VLFA, FIT, RAF- IS, StéttVest, and VR. A collective bargaining agreement between Norðurál and the unions was signed in October 2020 and will remain in effect until 2025.


Commitment to health and well-being


Norðurál is committed to the high standards of its facilities and to providing a safe work- place. The company’s values of economy, unity, and integrity are reflected in our focus on human resources, the environment, and health and safety.


Transportation is provided between the smelter and Akranes, where nearly 60% of employees reside. Our staff represent a considerably larger area, however, with about 20% commuting daily from the Reykjavík capital area. The company owns or rents around 60 vehicles used by daily carpool commuters; these are offered to employees who live south of the Hvalfjörður tunnel and in Borgarnes. About 52% of the company’s carpool cars are electric, thus supporting our efforts to reduce energy consumption. There are 40 vehicle charging stations at the Grundartangi smelter, which are free for employees to use.


Norðurál has partnered with Vinnuvernd to offer wellness checks and annual occupational health examinations. Our aim is to monitor employees’ health with regard to any potentially harmful effects of the work environment, to improve the work environment where needed, and to remind employees of the importance of good health and encourage lifestyle improvements. Vinnuvernd submits annual reports on the general health of our staff. In 2022, 539 wellness checks were conducted, and overall results from the occupational health report were presented virtually to employees via Teams. All handling of personal information by Vinnuverd complies with data protection laws; Norðurál only receives information about individual employees in terms of their capacity to work at any given time.


Norðurál is a substance-free workplace, and all new recruits must undergo a drug test. Random tests are also carried out onsite to ensure no one is under the influence of illegal substances in the workplace.


The majority of Norðurál’s employees, around 490 people, are employed as production or maintenance staff based on a collective bargaining agreement. Contracts for managers, middle managers, specialists, and some clerical staff are not linked to collective agreements. The notice period for permanent staff is one week during the trial period, one to three months during the first year of employment, and at least three months subsequently. Under the collective agreement, employees retire during the month they reach age 67. Nine employees retired in 2022, and 21 will turn 67 in the next three years. The company offers those nearing retirement age a course addressing a variety of issues to be considered at such a juncture.


In 2022, 60 people took parental leave, 23% of them women and 77% men. Of these, 2% re-signed at the end of their leave, all of them women. In 2021, 61 took parental leave, 20% of them women and 80% men. Of these, 88% are still employed with the company.


No cases of work-related illness were reported during the year. According to the report by Vinnuvernd, the majority of Norðurál staff do not have difficulties performing their duties due to work-related discomfort (78%). Around 22% have experienced problems carrying out their duties (rarely/sometimes/often) due to work-related discomfort. The vast majority of employees are satisfied with the social environment in the workplace: 87% feel staff morale is good, compared with 82% the previous year.


STNA, Norðurál’s employee association, is highly active and holds a number of events each year, including organized hikes and various family events. The company also provides entertainment subsidies, including discounts on cinema and theater tickets, shopping promotions, and offers for activities in west Iceland and the capital area.


Workplace analyses and job satisfaction


Workforce analyses are generally carried out every two to three years. In June 2022, a pulse survey was conducted to follow up on the job satisfaction survey from autumn 2021. Results from the pulse survey broadly support those from the previous year and reflect the measures that were subsequently taken. Employee engagement rose slightly between surveys: the average in June 2022 was 3.62, compared to 3.58 in 2021.


Bullying and harassment


Norðurál has internal procedures to address bullying, sexual and gender-based harassment, and other forms of violence. These procedures and expectations, which are applicable to all employees, are communicated to new hires and subsequently at regular intervals, and they are also considered in workforce analyses. Under no circumstances are bullying, sexual or gender-based harassment, or other forms of violence to be tolerated in the workplace. Such unacceptable behaviors are considered violations of professional standards, and all complaints are thoroughly investigated. Thirteen cases were reported in 2022; the majority of these involved communication problems and were resolved with assistance from managers and other staff. Two cases resulted in job transfers, and one ended with dismissal.


Safety First


At Norðurál, we place great emphasis on occupational health and safety to prevent accidents and minimize hazards. To ensure the safety of staff, contractors, and visitors to the site, everyone who enters the facilities must familiarize themselves with and abide by the company’s safety rules. As reducing risk depends upon the joint effort of all employees at Norðurál, our motto is “One for all!” We look after one another and perform our duties as sensibly and safely as possible.


Managing occupational health and safety


Norðurál’s Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE) Committee is led by the Managing Director and includes representatives from executive management as well as safety officers. The committee advises the company on relevant policies, helps set targets for improvements, and identifies ways to implement preventative measures. Pursuant to Act no. 46/1980, the HSE Committee considers matters relating to facilities, hygiene, and safety within the company. Alternating committee chairs and secretaries are elected by safety officers and other committee members.


The statutory role of the HSE Committee is to

  • assist in preparing and following up on risk assessments 

  • familiarize employees with occupational health and safety risks and ensure proper training in safety procedures 

  • ensure no bullying occurs in the workplace 

  • ensure that machinery and equipment, hazardous materials, and work procedures do not pose risks to employees 

  • ensure that personal protective equipment is available, in good condition, and used appropriately

  • monitor the reporting of accidents, incidents, and occupational illness 


The HSE Committee appoints professional councils for safety and risk management, employ- ee engagement and communications, site inspections, facilities, employee well-being, and environmental issues. These councils meet regularly and have contact with staff, both to gain and to impart knowledge. In addition, they consult with the HSE Committee on a regular basis.


Norðurál’s Security Department employs a group of specialists in fields such as risk assessment, risk management, and incident investigation. The company’s safety management system is based on the principle of continuous improvement and follows ISO standards.


Procedures for risk management and incident investigation are part of Norðurál’s key management system and are reviewed through internal audits. Individual incidents are reviewed in meetings with management, which are held on a weekly basis. Risk analyses are reviewed regularly, and guidelines for regular work procedures are based on such analyses.


All work carried out at Norðurál must follow established procedures that have undergone a risk analysis. Work procedures are included in the company’s Quality Manual and are accessible via Norðurál’s intranet and from supervisors. New job-related tasks are required to undergo risk assessment before they commence.


The company’s safety rules apply to everyone at Norðurál, from employees and contractors to visitors to the site. Contractors are given an orientation and safety training before starting work.

Norðurál’s safety rules can be accessed here

Incident investigations are used to understand the root causes of incidents and to determine which preventative measures should be taken in the future.

All incidents, accidents, and damages are recorded in Norðurál’s reporting system. As we believe all accidents come with forewarning, we also encourage the reporting of near-miss accidents and safety or environmental incidents. Reports are taken seriously, and changes are implemented when appropriate.

*The rate of occupational accidents is given as the number of accidents per 200,000 working hours, corresponding to the work of 100 employees over the year.


Education and training


New hires at Norðurál receive onboarding training focused on safety matters and environ- mental concerns. They are also given an overview of the company’s policies and production procedures before beginning intensive training specific to their position. In 2022, employees received an average of 21 hours of training. In the spring, team training on workplace analysis, safety, and environmental concerns was organized for all staff. Training for managers began in December 2021 and continued until the spring of 2022, with sixteen shift managers and workstation supervisors receiving 140 hours of training during the period.


Specialized training is provided for new employees, including a “lockout/tagout/test” course as well as courses on fall protection and working in confined spaces. Training needs for permanent staff are based on skills criteria. Contractors are given a general training presentation each year and additional courses as needed.


The training schedule includes refresher courses for various aspects of occupational safety, including first aid training for supervisors as well as retraining in incident investigation and fall protection. Production staff review guidelines for regular work procedures annually. In addition to this training, Norðurál’s policies on quality standards, the environment, health and safety, human rights, and equality are visibly displayed throughout Norðurál’s facilities and through the company’s communication channels.


Total training hours 12,718

  • 296.5 hours of incident investigation training
  • 994 hours of training in safety procedures
  • 793 hours of management training
  • 4,496 hours of team training
  • Over 6,000 hours of additional types of training

In the summer of 2022, a new human resources and payroll system was introduced that holds great potential in terms of education and training. The system also offers staff access to basic information such as training progress and certifications.


A culture of safety


The primary focus of staff training in 2022 was behavior-based safety (BBS) and incident investigation. Group training days also covered material from the Safety, Environment, and Development Department, including reviews of Norðurál’s contingency plan, the main environmental impacts of production, and waste management.


In 2011, Norðurál implemented a BBS system intended to promote safety awareness amongst staff and develop a strong culture of safety. Employees are encouraged to view all procedures and the work environment through the lens of safety and to establish safer habits in their daily tasks. Such a practice is considered established when a given task is performed safely and with 100% accuracy for 21 consecutive days or shifts, and employees cheer when a safe routine has been achieved.


Behavior-based safety is in employees’ hands: we strive to activate everyone at Norðurál to increase workplace safety for themselves and for their colleagues. Staff education is an important part of this process, and we make sure to provide appropriate training to all employees for whom safety procedures are relevant.


Last year, we emphasized retraining and refresher courses for experienced staff, while also ensuring intensive training for new staff, or those who have worked for the company for less than three years.


Managers and specialists were also retrained in incident investigation in the autumn. In addition, practical exercises were conducted, and real-life examples of incidents from participants’ departments were gathered and analyzed.


Norðurál School of Heavy Industry


In December 2022, ten students completed all three semesters of the basic course at the Norðurál School of Heavy Industry. The share of women in the program was 23%. In January 2022, fifteen students enrolled in the school’s advanced course, also three semesters in length. The Norðurál School of Heavy Industry — run in cooperation with the Centre for Continuing Education in West Iceland and the Comprehensive College of West Iceland — was established in 2012 and has 190 graduates. Its courses are aligned with Iceland’s upper secondary education system; the curriculum is developed and approved by the Education and Training Service Centre, and students can receive up to 45 upper secondary credits for both the basic and advanced classes. The school enables staff to gain an understanding of the company’s production process, familiarize themselves with other areas of internal operations, complete coursework at the upper secondary school level, and undertake projects to improve the work environment.


Performance reviews

Annual employee reviews, along with corrective and constructive feedback, are an important part of regularly assessing staff performance and contributing to career development. The Human Resources Department aims to ensure all employees have at least one performance review each year. Around 85% of employees had one or more formal conversations with their manager by the end of 2022.

Rights and respect

The staff at Norðurál have six representatives from the unions that are parties to the com- pany’s collective bargaining agreement, along with a primary representative. No cases related to violations of labor law were reported during the year.

Community interests

Norðurál supports a number of community causes, with more than 20 million ISK given to activities and organizations in 2022. We are a proud sponsor of the ÍA football club in Akranes and the Valur football club in Reykjavík, with a particular focus on young players.

Additional sponsorship agreements have been made with Fablab and Leynir Golf Club. We have also given funding to the Mothers’ Support Committee, the Akranes ICE-SAR team, and other parties.