Safety in the gases industry is taking on ever increasing importance, both regionally and globally. Here we follow-up May’s Focus Feature with an exploration of the Compressed Gas Association’s (CGA) role in the global harmonisation of gas safety standards.

Safety in the gases industry is taking on ever increasing importance, both regionally and globally.

This year saw the British Compressed Gases Association’s (BCGA) Annual Conference (2008) emphasise the topic of safety standards among the many other associated themes, while partner organisation the CGA (Compressed Gas Association) is actively involved in promoting the safe manufacture and handling of industrial and medical gases.

Back in May, our Focus Feature in conjunction with Gas Safe Consultants discussed key safety guidance for operating safely with gases. As gasworld looks to adopt a further focus on safety standards in 2009, here we follow-up May’s feature with an exploration of the CGA’s role in the global harmonisation of gas safety standards.

About the CGA
First of all, let’s take a look at the CGA itself before examining the association’s role in global standardisation.

Roger Smith, Technical Director for the CGA, provides us with a description of the organisation and its many significant functions.

The mission of the CGA is to promote the safe manufacture, transportation, storage, transfilling, and disposal of industrial and medical gases and their containers. Since 1913, the Compressed Gas Association has been dedicated to the development and promotion of safety standards and safe practices in the industrial gas industry.

More than 125 member companies work together through the committee system to create technical specifications, safety standards, and training and educational materials; to cooperate with governmental agencies in formulating responsible regulations and standards; and to promote compliance with these regulations and standards in the workplace.

Since many of the CGA’s member companies have operations overseas, a primary focus of the association has been on international standards harmonisation. The CGA has developed and implemented an international harmonisation strategy based on three interrelated, yet separate areas: participation at the United Nations (UN), the creation of the International Harmonisation Council (IHC), and increased participation in the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

Participating at the United Nations (UN)
The CGA has consultative status as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) at the UN in the Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and the Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

In this role, the CGA’s industry safety experts advise the US delegation on standards for safe practices with the use of industrial and medical gases, as well as related equipment. Many of the recommendations developed by these UN Sub-Committees are adopted in U.S. regulations through the US Department of Transportation (DOT), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well Canadian regulations through Transport Canada (TC) and Health Canada (HC).

There exists a critical relationship between the international activity the CGA does with ISO and the UN as ISO standards are adopted by the UN in its model regulations. The UN is the portal for the adoption of transportation and classification-related ISO standards into regulation in the US and Canada.

The CGA is actively engaged in the development of standards through ISO and of these, more than a dozen standards are currently in the UN Model Regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. This is of vital importance, since the UN Model Regulations generally describe the overall regulatory requirements and referenced ISO standards specify detailed technical requirements.

As an example of the completion of a UN/ISO standards adoption cycle, DOT recently incorporated regulatory provisions where 20 ISO standards were adopted into US transportation regulations. Publication of this final rule was a significant milestone, since it amended the Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations allowing the manufacture, use, and inspection and test of cylinders and tubes in the US in accordance with ISO standards.

Working with the International Organisation for Standardisation
During meetings held in 2000 between DOT, TC, CGA, and the European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA), the importance of the relationship between the UN and ISO crystallised.

DOT’s stated that it was the department’s goal to adopt ISO standards into the UN Model Regulations – and ultimately into the US Hazardous Materials Transportation Regulations. This brought new emphasis to the value of developing ISO standards and the importance of participation at the UN.

The CGA’s primary focus at ISO is international standards produced by ISO Technical Committee (TC) 58 Gas cylinders, and its three subcommittees. While the CGA also participates in technical committees on hydrogen technologies and cryogenic vessels, it is the work under TC 58 that currently has the most significant impact at the UN and ultimately on regulations in the US and Canada.

More than a dozen ISO standards produced by TC 58 are already referenced in the UN Model Regulations, and others are under consideration for adoption. TC 58 produces standards that cover gas cylinders and their valves and accessories, from design specifications through to periodic inspection and testing, and including filling and marking requirements.

Creating the International Harmonisation Council
In 1997, the CGA and EIGA formed a committee to coordinate the development of new standards and the revision of existing standards with the ultimate goal of improving safety and efficiency of industrial gases throughout the world.

In 1999, a new gas association was formed in Japan, and the Japan Industrial Gases Association became a member of the committee, which was formally named the International Harmonisation Council (IHC) in 2001.

The goal of the IHC is to manage the harmonisation process, from evaluating potential projects to tracking progress and adoption of the standards by regional associations. The IHC further expanded in 2003 when the Asia Industrial Gases Association (AIGA) joined the council.

The work of the IHC is supported and managed by the Global Committee of the International Oxygen Manufacturers Association (IOMA GC). The IOMA GC consists of senior executives from the major industrial gas companies in North America, Europe and Japan.

The IOMA GC approves projects, sets harmonisation programme priorities and evaluates progress. It also provides guidance and direction from a global perspective.

At present, there are almost 50 standards and codes of practice either published or in development through the work of the IHC and IOMA GC. There are also approximately 30 additional projects that are being evaluated as potential harmonisation projects. These documents are adopted by IHC member associations.

Global harmonisation presents an opportunity to maximise the use of available resources and minimise duplication by focusing on one set of standards.

The future holds significant promise for working together with our national and international colleagues to develop the most comprehensive, safe and environmentally responsible standards and procedures that enhance safety, thereby enabling our industry to respond to growth opportunities for industrial gases.

For more information about CGA and its global harmonisation activities, visit www.cganet.com.

About the Author
Roger A. Smith is Technical Director for the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) and has served in that position for 12 years. Prior to joining the CGA, Smith was employed for 25 years in the industrial and medical gas industry.

Contact Roger at rsmith@cganet.com.