More chemicals industry diseases

Chemicals and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) chairman Joachin Schoch.
Chemicals and Allied Industries Association (CAIA) chairman Joachin Schoch.

South African chemicals operators reported more chemicals industry diseases among health and safety statistics in the Responsible Care Performance Report 2016.

Occupational diseases in the chemicals sector in South Africa had increased in the last three years, from a rate of 0.009 to 0.058. Responsible Care signatories and CAIA members report occupational diseases per 200 000 hours worked.

Due to the significant periods that could elapse between exposure or an incident, and reporting of an occupational disease, this indicator is critical to monitor, but often retrospective.

Chemicals contractors did not report any occupational diseases for last year. Occupational diseases can be expected to be lower for contractors, as there is reduced exposure through time spent on a company’s site.

Causes of occupational diseases not yet reported

“The in-house occupational disease incident rate will now be analysed in terms of causes, if this could be determined”, said CAIA chairman Joaquin Schoch.

“However root cause information is not requested in the QIP questionnaire, due to the time that can elapse between exposure and diseases being reported.”

Three chemicals transport fatalities

Of the four fatalities reported for last year, one was in-house due to chemicals operations, a rare event. “The decrease in fatalities is very encouraging, although the behaviour of third parties on the road remains a grave concern”, said Schoch.

These hazards cannot always be planned for. However CAIA reports all in-house fatalities that take place, no matter the reason.

Three of the four fatalities recorded for 2015 resulted from transportation of material by road.

Chemicals Recordable Injury rate excludes first aid cases

The recordable injury incident indicator, expressed as a rate per 200 000 hours worked, is used around the world as a proxy to the attention that is paid to employee safety.

This is based on the assumption that the more resources that are invested towards employee safety, the safer the working environment will be, which in turn should result in fewer incidents that lead to occupational illnesses and/or illnesses that lead to the requirement for medical treatment.

Incidents requiring only first aid, or diagnostic procedures, or a single visit to a medical practitioner for observation, are excluded from recordable injury incident reporting in the CAIA and RC data.

Injuries in the chemicals sector have reduced in the previous year.

The recordable injury incident rate is now given for material and non-material related incidents, for in-house as well as contractor operations.

“Attention should continue to be paid to employee safety and behaviour in order to further drive the incident rate down”, said Schoch.

One of the major contributing factors to the improvement of the overall injury rate, is the decline in recordable injuries due to non-material related incidents.

The same applies to injuries that result from contractor operations. However, the material-related injury incident rate had increased for in-house operations.

The RC performance report was released in November 2016.
The RC performance report was released in November 2016.

Transportation incidents and disruptions

Road transportation-related incidents, per 100 000 tonnes of material transported, remained relatively stable.

Some contractors that transport material on behalf of Responsible Care signatories, are CAIA members and Responsible Care signatories themselves. Thus the in-house and contractor values can never be combined.

CAIA encourages members to use logistic service providers that are accredited with the SA SQAS.

CAIA may consider steps to reduce road transportation-related incidents (such as technology paradigm shifts), due to their contribution to fatalities and the apparent stagnation of the overall annual incident rate.

Serious road-related incidents that result in disruption of public activities are also reported by signatories on an annual basis. The number reported for contractor-related operations has decreased.

CAIA captures a wide variety of incidents under this indicator as “public disruption”, which is defined as: “the evacuation of the public, road closure, restriction of public activity or other significant precautionary measures having to be taken due to the danger, or perceived danger to the public, of a chemical release occurring. Any incident which involved the attendance of the local Emergency Services, attracted adverse local, national and/or international media attention, and/or that lasted for more than one hour should also be reported.”

Signatories to the Responsible Care initiative use modes of transportation other than road to transport material, such as via pipeline or rail.

There continues to be no incidents that result in public disruption events for these modes of transportation. The investments that the state is making towards the revitalisation and expansion of South Africa’s rail infrastructure via a number of the Strategic Integrated Projects is acknowledged as a contribution to increase competitiveness, transportation networks and local and regional integration.

chem-risk-products-lab-chemicals-management-billStorage and Handling incidents

Members now again aggregate the reporting of storage and handling incidents. In the past, the reporting of incidents on the two indicators had been disaggregated and reported along with the volume of material stored and handled respectively.

However, this methodology also presented a challenge in terms of determining the volumes that were applicable.

The length of time different materials are stored for, further complicated the estimations for this indicator.

The data that will now be reported at a disaggregated level will be considered on the basis of hours worked, as this aligns to how other safety metrics, such as recordable injuries, are measured.

Chemicals Emergency Response plans

From early 2016, more focus was placed on the Community Awareness and Emergency Response aspects of the QIP questionnaire.

Site visits by interested parties have increased, is increasing, despite the concerns surrounding risk.

Potentially linked to this increase is the improvement in the proportion of signatories that have a Community Awareness and Emergency Response Structure in place.

Since 2013, the number of emergency response plans that are tested with community involvement have been decreasing, and the reasons for this trend need to be of implementation of emergency response plans within signatories’ operations remains above 90%.

Almost every site will have an interested or affected community or group of stakeholders, including those based around the site.

This community does not necessarily have to be made up of residential areas, as is sometimes the case, but can consist of other businesses or activities taking place close to the signatory’s site.

Responsible Care Process Safety Forums

Historically, catastrophic events in the chemical and allied industries have claimed the lives of many workers.

Through effective process safety management, the reduction of the risk of uncontrolled process events such as fires, explosions and accidental chemical releases is realised.

Best practice in process safety assists employers prevent or mitigate hazardous chemical releases that could lead to a disaster in the workplace and possibly in the surrounding community.

The two Responsible Care® Process Safety Forums (PSFs) that CAIA established, meet quarterly in Johannesburg and in Durban, where members discuss ways to improve workplace safety and health from a process safety perspective.

Members have a shared goal of providing safe and healthy work environments for employees and ensure continuous improvement in their individual companies.

The efforts of the PSF promote safer and more productive industrial operations in South Africa. In particular, the aims of the fora are to:

  • respond to interest expressed at the workshops that CAIA provides on process safety
  • promote the Responsible Care® initiative
  • encourage compliance with process safety standards
  • identify processes and mechanisms to promote compliance with process safety standards
  • encourage the sharing of best practice between Responsible Care® signatories in line with the Responsible Care® Guiding Principles.

Process safety management has a direct positive effect on the safety of employees and increased productivity. However, smaller businesses with limited resources can find it difficult to have a functional process safety management system/team.

The PSF takes businesses of all sizes into consideration during their discussions and exchange alternative ways of decreasing the risks associated with highly hazardous chemicals at their workplaces.

For example, reducing the inventory of a hazardous chemical on site will result in a reduction of the risk or potential for a disastrous incident occurring. Such actions are not costly to implement.

One of the cornerstones of ongoing compliance with Responsible Care® is having an effective self-assessment programme and procedures. The development of self-assessment protocols is an important exercise fort he Fora to enhance compliance with legal requirements as well as the health and safety of employees, since legislation and processes are constantly changing. Small changes can have marked impacts on the health and safety of employees and other stakeholders.

Chemical hazardous waste management

A trend analysis shows that the majority of solid waste that is generated by signatories of the Responsible Care initiative is classified as hazardous.

In the last two years, the volume of solid waste generated per tonne of production appears relatively stable, although the proportion of the waste that is hazardous appears to be declining.

The proportion of signatories with waste management plans in place shows a marginal improvement, as has been the case annually since 2013, now at 87%.

Environmental laws increasing

“A myriad of added new regulations continue to be developed in South Africa from an environmental perspective”, said CAIA chairman Joaquin Schoch.

“This most certainly adds pressure to doing business in South Africa. During 2015, CAIA was again heavily involved in the environmental policy space, particularly with regards to climate change matters.”

The new Paris Agreement commits countries to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to combat the effects of climate change. CAIA has been very active advocating its position in this regard.

  • Sources: CAIA. RC.