It takes highly developed skills to work with gas – a volatile and complex substance – but managing large volumes of gas output on a daily basis without incident for over 30 years is no mean feat and requires strict compliance with health and safety regulations, a commitment to caution and sound organisational practises.
Air Products South Africa’s Port Elizabeth facility in Deal Party boasts both a clean track record and multiple awards for adhering to and exceeding safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) expectations.
The plant is a National Occupational Safety Association (NOSA) accredited facility – an indication of its on-site safety and health standards.
Air Products has won numerous awards from NOSA, in particular the prestigious NOSCAR five star award, which seeks to acknowledge excellence in occupational safety, health, and environmental quality.
Air Products Area Sales Manager, Pierre Fourie, says the company is extremely proud of running an incident-free facility for the past 30 years – the total number the plant has been in operation.
“We empower our staff with broad-ranging skills on a regular basis. In addition they are also given first aid, fire fighting, dangerous goods and fork-lift training, as well as welding courses. We also conduct internal and external quality audits to ensure that our premises are maintained to the best standards,” says Fourie.
On the list of criteria that helped Air Products scoop the NOSCAR award are good housekeeping, mechanical, electrical and personal safeguarding, management of fire and other risks, incident recording and abidance to their safety, health environmental and quality policies. In addition, it is the company’s commitment to quality products and the implementation of strict safety controls that helped win the awards.
“When I arrive at work I make sure that I am completely fixated on the work at hand. It is so easy to make mistakes because we work with highly complex mixtures of gas on a daily basis. I have to be 100% focused to ensure that I mix the correct blend of gas,” said Justin Krige, an Air Products fill operator.
Krige started off as a general dutyman at Air Products and moved his way up the ranks to become a fill operator, a job he takes very seriously because of its technical nature and skills complexity requirements.
“My job entails blending various volumes of gas together to produce various welding and speciality gases that service various industries. A mistake in gas blending could mean that the customer receives the incorrect mix, a fault will be detected and the high level of customer service and satisfaction that Air Products seeks to deliver will be compromised – which we cannot allow,” says Krige.
Krige, who holds no formal qualification in his field of expertise, credits his career successes to the regular training he receives from Air Products.
“We are given the option to attend short courses, as well as pursue studies in our line of work to develop our skills. I enjoy physics, mathematics and science and I look forward to developing my skills in this field with the support of Air Products,” Krige says.
Air Products will start construction of its “highly efficient and reliable” R300-million air separation unit in the Coega Industrial Development Zone during this quarter. The plant, driven by technological innovation and state-of-the-art machinery, will produce liquid oxygen and nitrogen – which will be strategically stored in bulk tanks on site, ensuring security of supply for critical customers in the Eastern Cape.
“We are looking forward to the construction and commissioning phase, which in itself presents new challenges to us as the employees working on the ground. I am also quite excited about this opportunity to develop my skills and grow in this industry that I am so passionate about,” says Krige.
The completion and commissioning of the new air separation unit – the first ever in the Eastern Cape – is planned for the third quarter of 2014.
“The dedicated and committed Air Products team now hits the ground running to bring the Eastern Cape valued customer gas supply and customer service you can rely on,” added Fourie.
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