Gas company prides itself on occupational risk hazard

17th April 2009 By: Fatima Gabru

Industrial gas manufacturing and supply company Air Products has conducted over three and a half years of incident free work time at its Kempton Park repackaging plant, the company's for industrial packaged gases production manager, Hein Brink, tells Engineering News.

He adds that the company holds the National Occupational Safety Association (Nosa), five-star, platinum certification for occupational risk management.

Air Products operations manager for packaged gases Peter Zellerhoff comments that the certification means that the company is more than 90% compliant with Nosa's international safety standards. He adds that Air Products risk assessments, safety controls, training systems, and the company's observance and reinforcing of safety processes are scrutinised by Nosa during yearly audits.

Brink adds that the plant volunteered to take on the Nosa platinum rating. He says that this rating level places the onus of further safety systems on the company, and that the compliance standards are much stricter than a Nosa green level rating. Brink comments that the company's commitment to platinum-rating certification underlines its commitment to safety above production, sales or profits.

Zellerhoff explains that as a Nosa certified company, Air Products runs a yearly hazardous identification and risk assessment. He says that this leads to a review of all risks on site.

Once a risk is identified, the company has to decide whether to continue carrying it, tolerate it, treat it or transfer it. If the plant decides to tolerate it, it continues keeping the product without any storage or other modification. To treat it, the company looks at ways of changing its storage environment to mitigate the risk of carrying it. When it decides to transfer it, an alternative plant, which has the facilities to tolerate the risk, is found.

Brink points out that Air Products, globally, has identified dissolved acetylene (DA) plants as its operations' biggest onsite potential fire-hazard area. He says that a global Air Products DA working group has been formed to share ideas, experiences and knowledge to constantly work on making the DA plants fire-safe. "There is active discussion around ‘near-miss' incidents to learn from these and ensure that no similar incident could take place again at any of the company's worldwide plants," he comments.

At the Kempton Park plant, the company has installed flammable gas detectors, which set off an alarm once a certain level of ‘in air' acetylene content is exceeded. This level is set well before the gas's flammability point is reached. "Should this happen, the plant is shut off, evacuated and a search for the leak is conducted," says Zellerhof.

The plant has a fire fighting team, as well as an emergency response (ER) team on each of its shifts. The fire fighting team consists of about five, either plant operators or management team, members. "All employees are aware that the fire fighting equipment should not be handled without training and that this is the responsibility of the fire fighting team," adds Air Products environmental health and safety coordinator for packaged gases Rushda Thomas.

Brink explains that the fire fighting team is trained to handle small fires, while the ER team is trained to handle toxic and other specific gas fires. The ER team consists of experienced company staff, who are trained by an Air Products' US specialised ER training unit. This unit travels to the company's global offices on a regular basis, to deliver a week of intensive training.

Air Products is an industrial gas supply company for oxygen, nitrogen, helium, carbon dioxide and acetylene.