Exceeding expo-tations

Exceeding expo-tations

The inaugural OSH Expo on African soil saw detractors having the wind taken out of their sails by what proved to be a resounding success. SHEQ MANAGEMENT enjoyed the show.

An exhibition with a difference; that’s what one could probably call the inaugural OSH Expo Africa. The event, which took place at the beginning of September at Midrand’s Gallagher Convention Centre, is something of a spin-off of the event which has been a regular fixture in the UK since 1996. That one attracts 300 exhibitors and an average of 17 000 visitors … so no pressure for the first African version, then!

Indeed, explains David Bishop, portfolio manager at UBM Live which runs the UK show, OSH Expo Africa is the first of a series of similar overseas events to be held in countries such as Dubai, India and Nigeria.

“We were deliberating for some time if we should launch the show here, but we felt the timing was right this year, and we are very happy with the outcome.” Bishop says. “It’s obviously not the finished article; this show was a launch pad to demonstrate its potential – and we have lots of plans for an all-encompassing event for South Africa’s industry. You obviously can’t help the comparisons with the UK show, but the majority of feedback has been positive and there is big enthusiasm.”

Exceeding expo-tationsRoss Cullingworth, event director at UBM Montgomery (responsible for the South African show), explains why: “We focused on offering visitors a quality exhibition as well as meaningful conference sessions – but, significantly, they don’t have to invest a lot of time. They can take a couple of hours out of their day and gain something meaningful.

“Time and money are becoming more important and no one can afford to go to a four-day conference. This industry is looking for a more targeted approach; decision makers want to invest a couple of hours out of their day, as opposed to a couple of days out of their busy schedules.”

So, for those few hours, what did the
2 188-odd visitors get? Well, being first and foremost an expo, visitors were able to interact with over 40 exhibitors from South Africa’s – and the world’s – occupational health and safety community. The show attracted some big names from both fronts, with firms such as LexisNexis, DQS, Hass, Isometrix, NOSA and HSE. International companies Ansell, Kimberly Clark and 3M also made an appearance.

In fact, 3M won the event’s best stand award. “The show’s been great for 3M. The calibre of visitor is what’s been most notable – the people coming in are high level managers, not shop floor assistants; it’s been well attended by the right people,” comments Andrew Blackburn, 3M product manager for occupational health and environmental safety. “We will certainly be back next year; we now have a reputation to uphold,” he laughs, drawing proud attention to the company’s award.

Cullingworth concurs: “They (the visitors) are specialists in health and safety, specialists in security, and environmental experts. We have attracted quality people from small and big companies.”

Exceeding expo-tationsPlatinum sponsor and new entrant to the South African market, Ansell, was another organisation impressed by the quality of visitor. Nick Brown, territory sales manager Middle East & Africa, admits Ansell felt it was taking a gamble. “But OSH Expo Africa has been fabulous. As a platinum sponsor, we could not be happier. The quality of the delegates – especially from some top mining and automotive companies – has delighted us. Three hours into the show, we had already decided that it was a success.”

The second aspect to the show was the ongoing seminars held by the organisers and exhibitor LexisNexis. The venue had a dedicated “working at heights” seminar area, as well as the OSH & Facilities seminar theatre.

These comprised a range of topics presented by renowned industry experts, with each intended to add value to the visitor experience. Lianné Jansen van Rensburg, key account manager at LexisNexis, was impressed with the reactions of seminar attendees.

“The seminar was very successful, the attendees enjoyed it and the show itself has been very good. We will certainly be back next year, bigger and better.” LexisNexis’ “compliance summit” focussed on a different theme each day: managing facilities safely; mining safety; and construction safety.

While the South African event didn’t quite pull in the 17 000 pairs of feet the parent version does, it could, by all accounts, do so in time. Organisers and exhibitors are already planning for growth from next year’s event, which has been confirmed for 19-21 June at Gallagher Convention Centre, co-located with the Facilities Show Africa and IFSEC South Africa.

The reasoning for the earlier date in 2012 is that exhibitors at the UK event are expected to display several innovations at their event in May, and as a result these will be new for the South African show as well.

The reasoning for the earlier date in 2012 is that exhibitors at the UK event are expected to display several innovations at their event in May, and as a result these will be new for the South African show as well.

While OSH Expo Africa, understandably, couldn’t match the sheer visitor numbers of its senior UK counterpart, it certainly made its mark. An exhibition with a difference is the way to go, it would seem.

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