Air Products – top of the class

Air Products South Africa, a leading manufacturer and distributor of industrial and specialty gas products and chemicals, recently celebrated 40 years in the industry and thus has much to offer when it comes to expertise, experience and insight.

One of the areas where Air Products sets the benchmark is in the field of environmental health, safety (EH&S) and quality. According to Sue Janse van Vuuren, EH&S and quality manager, the company adheres strictly to its global EH&S standards. In addition, Air Products SA has implemented the NOSA (National Occupational Safety Association) Five-Star Integrated System.

“NOSA is an external accreditation body that uses specific criteria to measure how effectively a company has implemented its procedures. The highest honour is to be Noscar-rated,” says Janse van Vuuren, “and we are proud that six of our facilities are currently Noscar-rated, while three are Five-Star NOSA Platinum rated. Each year we have been able to improve our grading and overall scores.”

A key part of the drive to continually improve safety practices is the careful recording of every incident. This helps the company to prevent a recurrence of the same, or more serious, incidents.

Communicating about safety issues extends to the customer: if a customer experiences an incident, it is communicated to other customers as a preventative measure. “It is all about getting people involved and taking ownership of the situation,” Janse van Vuuren says.

The company also rolls out incentive initiatives from time to time to get employees involved.

The key environmental issue in the gas manufacturing process is the extensive use of natural resources. Large gas plants use significant amounts of electricity, so the company examines very closely how to optimise the management of its plants. “The same goes for water consumption,” she says, “although much of our process water is recycled on site.”

The final part of the equation is quality. Here, Air Products has a well established quality management system, that not only complies with ISO 9001, but also ISO 22 000 (for food safety management) and GMP (good manufacturing practice) for food and medical gases.

Finally, in a relatively small industry such as the South African gas industry, the main players join forces through the Southern Africa Compressed Gases Association (SACGA), to establish safety and technical standards and identify areas for improvement. Referring to the company’s recent EH&S industry awards, Janse van Vuuren concludes: “It is great to get recognition in the industry for what we do, and it is a useful benchmarking tool.”

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