Air Products South Africa sets the standard in sustainable health and safety management

Sue Janse van Vuuren, Corporate Risk Manager at Air Products South Africa. Sue Janse van Vuuren, Corporate Risk Manager at Air Products South Africa.

Air Products South Africa has, over a number of years, developed a formal occupational health and safety program that has proven highly effective, and has gained industry-wide recognition.

This program involves not only strict adherence to legislation, but a company-wide culture of proactive safety awareness. The result has been a demonstrably low disabling injury frequency rate (DIFR) at several of the company’s production sites and what the company refers to as “a consistently exceptional performance” in the management of occupational health and safety.

“At Air Products South Africa, occupational health and safety means ensuring that we provide a workplace for our employees that will not cause them harm through injury or illness. We have worked hard to achieve this objective: both through systems compliance, and a deeply-entrenched culture of safety throughout the organisation,” says Sue Janse van Vuuren, Corporate Risk Manager at Air Products South Africa.

Due to the nature of its processes and products, the gas industry may be a potentially hazardous working environment. As a result, the company’s risk-based health and safety management system is highly comprehensive, and takes into consideration both local and global elements. 

“In South Africa our health and safety management system is designed to ensure compliance to the global Air Products systems, as well as local legislation. In addition, we use the NOSA Integrated 5 Star System (Health, Safety and Environmental Management) as our benchmark,” explains Janse van Vuuren.

Hard work pays off every year for the company as it receives industry recognition and repeat accolades at the annual NOSHCON conference and awards. A highlight on the calendar for Air Products, last year’s NOSHCON was no exception, with six of the company’s sites winning the highest honour - a ‘Noscar.’

“A Noscar award is the highest accolade given by NOSA to companies that are certified on the NOSA 5 star system,” says Janse van Vuuren. “The criteria include exceptional performance in managing occupational health and safety for three consecutive years. Air Products won our first Noscar in 2003, and since then we are proud to have been awarded approximately 47 Noscars on our various sites around the country.”

This year, the Air Products site winners of Noscar awards were Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Witbank, Springs, Empangeni and Newcastle. Air Products Empangeni was also the National Sector Winner.

“The NOSA system is regarded as a valuable benchmarking tool within the industry,” notes Janse van Vuuren. “The Noscars enable us to measure how well we are doing in providing a safe workplace – in comparison with other companies - and also provides our customers with the assurance that we are effectively managing any potential risks.”

An effective occupational health and safety programme that complies with changing safety and environmental legislation requires constant updating and reviewing, however, which is why Air Products does not rest on its laurels.

“At Air Products we continually strive to improve our health, safety and security performance in order to achieve our ultimate goal of zero injuries. We do this by ensuring our risk assessments are reviewed and updated regularly, and effective control measures are put in place. Thorough investigations and root cause analysis on incidents and near misses are also conducted, and corrective actions implemented to prevent reoccurrence of similar incidents,” says Janse van Vuuren.

Air Products focuses on continually reinforcing policies and procedures throughout the organization, by training and proactively involving each and every member of staff. For Janse van Vuuren, this is critical to a truly sound health, safety and environmental program.

“The commitment and dedication of our management and staff is pivotal to developing a sustainable safety culture at Air Product, and maintaining our track record for safety excellence,” she concludes.

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