Air Products South Africa has proven that sustainability and market leadership depend, to a large extent, on a company-wide commitment to quality and safety practices.

The company has been supplying gases to South African industry for the past 46 years, and one of the critical success factors in the company’s sustained growth in that period is a reputation for efficient, secure and safe service delivery.

This is according to Mike Hellyar, Managing Director of Air Products South Africa, who recently had the pleasure of handing out a number of prestigious awards at the company’s annual Dexter Baker Awards ceremony.

“At Air Products we take our cue from a legacy of past leadership which has inspired us, as current leaders, to constantly improve on our safety track record and service excellence,” says Hellyar. “Our past leader Dexter Baker, whom the awards are named after, was instrumental in instilling a culture of safety and quality throughout the company.”

The awards ceremony is a highlight on the company calendar, and serves not only to pay tribute to those who consistently demonstrate the company values, but to motivate others to excel in their fields, according to Maropeng Bahula, General Manager – Technical Services at Air Products South Africa.

“We often say that nothing is more important than safety at Air Products – not production, not sales, not profits. The Dexter Baker Awards afford us the opportunity to revisit and recommit to our values, and to consider ways in which we can build on our track record and make further improvements. There is no doubt that our success in the market rests on the calibre of our people - both as individuals and those who work jointly as a team - to ensure high standards in every aspect of the business,” says Bahula.

The 2014 Winners

One of the sought-after awards is the Dexter Baker Individual award, which this year went to Hein van Tonder. The award recognised van Tonder for his exceptional performance in customer service and process optimisation in the company’s Bulk Gases division.

Other awards include the Managing Director’s Awards, which were created specifically to recognise those employees who show commitment to quality in customer service and relationships. “As a ‘supply chain company’, we believe it is our focus on efficiency in service delivery that differentiates us from our competitors, reflected in our ethos of ‘service that delivers the difference’,” comments Hellyar.

The recipient of the Managing Director’s Special Award was Kaushik Tailor, who was recognised for his contributions to the Data Centre and Head Office moves, the configuration of the telephony environment and the optimisation of a number of IT processes. A second Managing Director’s Award went to Dean Naidoo for his contributions to optimising the company’s IT processes, which included the configuration of a Disaster Recovery (DR) programme and the relocation of the company’s Data Centre. 

Excellence in team work

There are two Managing Director’s team awards, which, this year, were given to the Coega and Sasol teams. The Coega team was honoured for its outstanding achievement in the commissioning of Air Products’ new ASU in the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), which was achieved on time, and within agreed parameters, in September 2014.

2014 also saw the purchase of Sasol’s A2100 ASU by Air Products, and the operations and maintenance teams based at Sasol were honoured for many years of sustained quality performance of the Sasol ASU that led to Sasol having the confidence to outsource their gas requirements to Air Products.

Another team award, the Dexter Baker Team award, was given to the Cylinder Asset Management team, which showed extraordinary dedication and commitment in establishing control measures which have improved the asset management process for cylinders.

Of the eleven Air Products facilities around the country, Cape Town and Vanderbijlpark came out ‘tops’ this year for their safety records: Cape Town was the recipient of the Chairman’s Shield Safety Award for best overall performance in the Environment Health and Safety (EHS) audits; while Vanderbijlpark, the company’s ‘flagship’ facility and site of its new state-of-the-art ‘G-Plant’ ASU was the recipient of the Leonard Parker-Poole award for the best year-on-year EHS improvement.

The Geoff Prevett awards, also named after a past leader of Air Products, include an internal and external award. These awards honour those departments or facilities which demonstrate exceptionally high levels of customer service. The external award for 2014 was given to the Pinetown facility, while the internal award was given to the company’s SHEQ (safety, health, environment and quality) department.

Among Air Products’ various safety accolades is the ‘Near Miss’ safety award, which this year went to Tshepo Mhlambi for the dedication he showed in reporting the most ‘near misses’.

“Mhlambi’s attitude encapsulates that ‘Air Products ethos’ - where safety is everybody’s concern. We are proud of those individuals, work teams and facilities which have gone the extra mile to ensure that Air Products continues to live up to its reputation for exceptional customer service, quality processes and - most importantly - safety for all at our sites,” Hellyar concludes.