Linde buys BOC, gas companies go global, international regulations overtake nationals and so grows the need of uniting regions around the world. According to EIGA\\$quot;s (European Industrial Gases Association) general secretary, Frank H. Finger, one of his important missions is to harmonise the global gases industry.
At the age of 61 Frank is passionate about the gases business and the way the industry is expanding. Having served the trade all his life, he naturally knows it inside out. Despite having the opportunity to retire in 2002 and put his feet up, he chose to continue. Today he is the general secretary of the organisation serving his second term of office.
\\$quot;I graduated from a engineering university and specialised in energy technology. Shortly I joined the Messer Group for whom I worked my whole career. I have been both in the technical and commercial side of the business but always responsible for gas related equipment like tanks, road tankers, vacuum insulated tanks and lines for helium or hydrogen, but never responsible for gases.
\\$quot;Although my first contact with EIGA was in 1997 as a member of the safety advisory and the environmental working groups, the breakthrough happened in 2001 at the EIGA Summer Session held in Copenhagen, Denmark. A year later I was nominated by Messer and after an assessment continued my career with EIGA.\\$quot;Changing face of EIGA
EIGA is committed to safety and environment and the clear mission is to maintain the highest level of safety and concern for the environment at work and in the community. Frank for example stresses that the working group meetings are always strictly technical. \\$quot;We at EIGA develop documents, papers and recommendations to our members for the industry as well as for their customers.\\$quot;
\\$quot;Despite our industry has one of the best safety records, there are still things to learn and goals to be met.\\$quot;
According to Frank EIGA, an organisation with more than 80 years history reaching back to Paris 1923, has changed significantly during his time. \\$quot;We have started to apply more external members instead of purely operating in central Europe. We have got members for example from the North African region and from the Arabian states e.g. in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Dubai and the whole Mediterranean Sea is covered by EIGA members.\\$quot;
EIGA is expanding but according to Frank there is still more work to be done. \\$quot;I am sure our board will discuss in time the right strategy for the future development of EIGA in relation with the regional and global activities.
\\$quot;The background for my thoughts is the fact that the experts of our member companies developed in the past an extensive library of valuable documents, which should be used for training in these regions where our member companies are operating. The wheel should not be developed twice and we should in time support these regions in developing their regulations and laws, based on our long-term experiences.
\\$quot;I expect that in the future our member companies have less expert resources available for our association\\$quot;s work for example due to several acquisitions and mergers.
\\$quot;On the other hand a possible expansion in membership will allow EIGA \\$quot;“ if necessary - to stock up the number of employed experts for the benefit of all members without increasing the fees.
\\$quot;Additionally we try to get more national associations involved. As the EU enlarges I am hoping to attract more Eastern European countries for instance. We already got Lithuania and Latvia. Estonia, Slovenia, Portugal, Turkey and Morocco are in development and could join shortly, which means that EIGA will be 28 national associations strong. The national associations from EU countries have an important role in relation with the regulations develop in Brussels for our industry.\\$quot;
On top of expanding externally, EIGA is also changing and growing internally. The organisation is capable of reacting flexibly as the changing market requires it. For example a formation of additional working groups such as the food gases and medical working group seven years ago.
The growing importance of the medical gases market \\$quot;“ with many regulations \\$quot;“ was immediately reflected by EIGA in launching last year a Medical Gases Council (MGC) with an additional working group.
EIGA is also adapting the change of abandoning hardcopy century and moving on to electronic age. He explained: \\$quot;All our correspondence with members, minutes or documents are distributed via email and published on the website. Our working group members did a tremendous job in 2004 and changed our entire library from hardcopy documents to electronic form. This enabled us to close the hardcopy store in Paris last year.\\$quot;
The latest IT investment is the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) incident data bank on a protected new website and an IT platform for all councils and working groups for a faster, internal communication.
Symposiums focus on topical themes///Record safety figures
Since 1970 EIGA has monitored lost time work injury frequencies of its member companies. Furthermore the organisation has established an incident database on its internet site for its SAG members to use. All accidents are confidentially listed, investigated, stored and filed there for members to learn from. EIGA also files important accident reports from outside Europe.
\\$quot;Safety in deed is one of our missions. Lost time injury figures have reduced by 80 per cent over the last 20 years. When one accident costs an average of 6000 euros, you can understand what the reduced numbers mean; companies are saving millions.
\\$quot;Despite our industry has one of the best safety records, there are still things to learn and goals to be met. Our symposiums and workshops are one way to achieve this but ultimately we have to look to the safety in our operations and we will become better.
\\$quot;SAG is the most useful way of improving safety for our industry. The most senior experts of the member companies form the group. Their mission is to guide and promote safety and share information. The members of the group have a very good working relationship and trust among each other so there are no leaks.\\$quot;
EIGA also organises awards and according to Frank people take them very seriously. \\$quot;Its always the highlight of our general meetings to present the awards. Whilst working for Messer I learnt that when the \\$quot;˜boss\\$quot; came home with an award people were always proud of the company they worked for.\\$quot;
EIGA has different kinds of awards such as a company award, a road safety award and a non-accident safety award-location. Last time the company award was submitted to Praxair Europe in category one, Air Liquide Espana in category two and Air Liquide Morocco in category three.
Legislation, design and operation recognised///Harmonisation
Global and regional harmonisation is a time-consumable part of Frank\\$quot;s role. This is due to a fact that there are more and more associations established.
IOMA (International Oxygen Manufacturers Association) and in particular IOMA\\$quot;s Global Committee, formed from top management of global gas companies, is the leader in the race for the ongoing process. Its steering group, IHC (International Harmonisation Council) works on documents and harmonises them globally.
\\$quot;Harmonisation came into force after a severe accident of a European based company in the US. In a law case the US lawyers based their judgement for a several million dollars fine on two different stringent documents in EU and US. If the regulations were the same everywhere that would not have happened.
\\$quot;Same documents should be used worldwide. Harmonisation of the global gas industry means that we have common understanding of the safe handling of gases and gas related equipment and respect the necessary regional requirements and existing national laws.\\$quot;
Today there are five regional associations working together; EIGA in Europe, AIGA in Singapore, ANZIGA in New Zealand, JIGA in Japan and CGA in the US. The organisations meetings cover different projects and the ways to harmonise them.
These associations are differently structured. \\$quot;The difference between us and CGA (American association) for example is that they are a standardisation body with links to their authorities whereas we develop technical know-how recommendations from the industry to the industry. CGA sells their standards to non-members where as we publish all documents free on the web for everybody. Our two objectives are the promotion of harmonisation and co-operation with other associations.
\\$quot;Harmonising is very difficult and it takes a lot of time but at the end of the day it benefits the worldwide companies such as BOC and Air Products. It is vital for their operational work that they have the same documents and policies in use worldwide.\\$quot;
So far IHC has had some 20 high priority A-projects that have been harmonised based on the global committee\\$quot;s decisions. Currently there are six A-projects proposed. Additionally the body has some 40 lower priority B-projects, which are not, however, controlled by the committee.
\\$quot;There is a great deal of harmonisation work ahead and lots to be achieved in the years in front of us, before and beyond my term of office is upon. Perhaps I should postpone my retirement once more!,\\$quot; laughs the ever so enthusiastic Frank from the headquarters of EIGA in Brussels.EIGA in 60 secondsFunds:
EIGA in a non-profit organisation (AISBL). Its budget is based on membership and events fees. Members are categorised into six groups. For example, the six major international gas companies are category one members, their subsidiaries are also EIGA members but pay category two or three membership fees depending of their turnover.New application:
All new membership applications must be confirmed by the Annual General Meeting attended by the 141 member companies and related regional and national associations like BCGA of the UK or IGV of Germany.
EIGA confirmed six new members in 2003, eight in 2004, 12 members in 2005 and about five new members are expected to join this year.Structure:
EIGA has a president, currently Aldo Belloni of Linde AG and vice president Bernard Guerini of Air Products and a board of directors, which constitutes the governing body. Under the supervision of the board is the Industrial Gases Council (IGC), the Medical Gases Council (MGC) and the Calcium Carbide Council (CCC). The EIGA office deals with legal, financial and administrative matters, and supports all technical and safety work. Altogether there are 14 members on the boards. Category one members have six permanent representatives and the category two and three members elect two representatives for two years term. Additionally the board consists of a general secretary, his/hers deputy and IGC, MGC and CCC chairman and two representatives from the national delegations for the summer sessions.
Safety Advisory Group is an important working group for improving our safety, composed of senior safety managers. The election system is the same; one permanent category one member, three elected member from the category two and three and co-opt members such as the general secretary and deputy.
The nine working groups (WG). Principally the formation system is the same, however, there is no regulations or election. Category one members can have one person per working group, but this is not compulsory as the working groups are formed of experts and all companies are free to send their representative to the working groups. These WG members \\$quot;“like SAG \\$quot;“ are the important \\$quot;˜power force\\$quot; of EIGA.MeetingsEIGA AGM
twice yearly. These two meetings are only open to members.EIGA Symposium
is held every second year. This two day event presents each time an actual interesting theme and is open for members and external participants.EIGA Workshop
is held once a year. The one-day event gathers together all the member and non-member experts, new technicians, representatives from authorities and customers.National Associations Meeting
. The two-day annual meeting gathers all the currently 22 national associations together. The meeting discusses the development of the EU regulation on national level and the exchange of new development with WG chairs and EIGA office.Chairmen Meeting
. Chairmen of the working groups get together for a one-day meeting to discuss their developments and coordination items with the office staff.EIGA Office:
All the above-mentioned well accepted and assessed events are only possible by the engagement of the professional working six members of the EIGA office.
Antitrust program in place///Antitrust program
EIGA\\$quot;s antitrust compliance program was developed in 2003. The main feature is the meeting guideline, which is downloadable from the web and always mentioned by the chairman at the beginning of all EIGA hosted meetings.
EU antitrust law, in principle, prohibits the exchange of commercially sensitive and current market information which competitors normally keep secret. It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list of objectionable discussion topics, as the competitive significance of many issues is dependent upon the context in which they are raised. However, it is EIGA\\$quot;s strict policy to follow a prudent rule in relation to antitrust issues. Therefore, no commercial topics outside the scope of EIGAÂ´s mission should ever be acted upon, or even considered, at EIGA meetings and gatherings. EIGA meeting discussions shall be limited to (written) agenda topics and minutes shall be provided.
In addition, an independent lawyer was introduced last year to EIGA\\$quot;s board and annual general meetings to overview the events.
\\$quot;Harmonisation is very difficult and time consuming
but at the end of the day it benefits the worldwide companies.\\$quot;