This week sees a hub of activity take place in Brussels as the European Industrial Gas Association’s (EIGA) 2012 workshop unfolds.

Entitled, ‘Oxygen Safety for Industrial and Medical Supply Chains’, the two day workshop is enjoying unprecedented popularity, indicative of the importance of the topic. Indeed, drawing 220 delegates, from 31 countries and 69 organisations, the Sheraton Brussels Hotel seems the locale for enquiring industrial gas professionals.

With attendence at a high and workshop places sold-out, delegates began proceedings with yesterday’s plenary sessions. Opened by EIGA President and Messer Groups’s CEO and Owner, Stefan Messer demonstrated that the calibre of speakers was unequivocally high from the very outset.

At the end of this workshop I am convinced that you will not just be better informed, but that you will be able to communicate this knowledge to your partners and colleagues… together we can continue to make our industry safer.”

Stefan Messer

Messer introduced proceedings, “Dear guests and colleagues, ladies and gentleman, we wish you a very warm welcome to EIGA’s 2012 Workshop on Oxygen Safety for Industrial and Medical Supply Chains. I am very pleased to see so many of you here - I believe the popularity of the workshop is testament to the depths of experience and expertise on offer. EIGA’s mission is to help the industrial gas indutsry maintain only the highest level of safety.”

“Over the next two days you will hear from industry experts and guest speakers about various incidents and how we can prevent accidents in the future… We must learn the lessons of these incidents to make sure they are not repeated. This is the responsibility of everyone, from Engineers to Directors,” emphasised the industry figurehead.

He continued, “Oxygen is critical for life, its use in healthcare is an area of our industry that is growing rapidly. We have to ensure that we are supplying producs to help patients and customers, but we must also make sure that these are safe. At the end of this workshop I am convinced that you will not just be better informed, but that you will be able to communicate this knowledge to your partners and colleagues… together we can continue to make our industry safer.”

Expertise on hand
Indeed the EIGA President was proved correct as attendees enjoyed afternoon plenary sessions filled with expertise from some of the 46 speakers on hand this year. Michael Wilson of Linde chaired the first session and introduced this year’s particular format, “The workshop format has been developed based on your feedback from previous events, as you can see the format is what you may be familiar with. The plenary session is designed to give you all an overview of the issues that we will be delving into more detail during each of the streams.”

He continued, “Tomorrow morning you will have the opportunity to hear in detail about large plants, cylinder plants and the medical side of the industry.” Wilson also took a moment to recap on the success of the earlier EIGA training sessions, in which over 60 people participated.

Delegates initially received an industry overview courtesy of Praxair’s Todd Skare, the Vice President of EIGA. He reminded delegates of the applicability and the essential need for oxygen in industries as everyday as steel and glass manufacturing to more specific medical spheres. Keen to offer practical information, Skare alluded to future growth patterns, particulary in China, the oils sands of Canada and in polygeneration. He also considered the reassuring fact that oxygen demand traditionally outweighs production and offers annual growth of between 3-4%.

Following on from this, Danilo Ritlop of Messer and EIGA Safety Advisory Council member, considered the importance of oxygen safety and successfully piqued delegate interest in the forthcoming technical streams A, B and C. He said, “Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe and it makes our planet very special - it is not only essential for life, but it also facilitates many different applications. The frequency of people’s interaction with oxygen is such that it is important to understand its properties and hazards… oxygen hazards must be recognised and managed.”

Phil Graham subsequently took to the stage and shared some of The Linde Group’s key safety controls. He explained the hazard priority list and emphasised the need to concentrate on the top elements, rather than relying upon the lower facets such as administration controls, behaviour and PPE.
In addition, Graham alluded to some of the more fragile balancing acts associated with oxygen safety and paid particular attention to personal home oxygen therapy. He remarked, “A very difficult area to deal with is home oxygen therapy - but it is also a very serious area and an area of great concern, because what you can’t do is stop supply. You will discuss this more tomorrow, but we at Linde find that there is no exact formula, it is handled between medical practioners, legal and sales teams and with the consumer themselves - it is a tricky balance.”

Session one drew to a close with a hearty panel discussion session. Speakers were quized on statistical accuracy as well as whether there was a wider cultural need to educate the public about the vast scope of oxygen applications, rather than confining it to the medicine-only stereotype. With concise but detailed responses, the panel confirmed its findings before determining that the real emphasis ought to lie with the customer, rather than consumers at large.

A full account of EIGA’s technical workshop on oxygen safety can be found in the March edition of gasworld.

More updates to follow!