EIGA’s 2012 Workshop concluded last week, with more than 220 delegates in attendance and still more on waiting lists, there was no denying the popularity of the topic. But now that participants have returned to their desks, gasworld considers the lessons learnt that will outlive the agenda.

The European Industrial Gases Association (EIGA) is renowned across the industry; the name connotes objectivity, practical guidelines and a keen membership. It’s perhaps no surprise then that EIGA events hold a degree of expectation. The 2012 workshop, ‘Oxygen Safety for Industrial and Medical Supply Chains’ which took place between 25th-26th January at the Sheraton Brussels hotel, was no exception to the rule, as gasworld reports.

Not just sold-out, but with a waiting list of people keen to attend, this year’s workshop had struck a chord with the industrial gas community before session even began. A 220 strong audience from 31 countries was greeted by 46 speakers, both internal and external who were on-hand to address the key debates around oxygen safety.

We have an aim of zero accidents, zero occupational illnesses in the future and that people on the other side of the desk are motivated to work in a very safe vein.

Detlov Flott, Berufsgenossenschaft RCI

Following a full first plenary session, of which highlights included an introduction from Stefan Messer, CEO and Owner of Messer GmbH and President of EIGA, as well as sector overviews from Todd Skare of Praxair, Danilo Ritlop of Messer and Linde’s Phil Graham, delegates reconvened for a more in-depth contextualisation of the specific streams.

Plenary Session Two was moderated by Hartmut Ôhmen of Air Liquide, Ôhmen chaired a fascinating session which offered a largely external take on the growth associated with oxygen, formal guidance on its handling and treatment, alongside a sojourn into its role in healthcare, as well as a taster of day two’s safety focus.

Detlov Flott initiated discussion with an insight from Berufsgenossenschaft RCI (BG), the German employer’s liability assurance association. He highlighted the prevalence of such associations and explained how one in every two German is represented by a BG. He said, “Prevention is our first priority for avoiding accidents and occupational illness.” Flott called upon recent incidents and statistics to emphasise the very real need to focus upon oxygen safety and make it an industry-wide priority. He concluded with an aim that epitomised EIGA’s intent: “We have an aim of zero accidents, zero occupational illnesses in the future and that people on the other side of the desk are motivated to work in a very safe vein.”

Subsequently, Mike Hevey, European Business Manager for Air Products commented on the vast number of applications served by oxygen. He highlighted existing sectors such as steel manufacturing and glass-making, but he also drew attention towards the growth sectors and in particular, emerging geographies. In doing so, Hevey raised the very pertinent issue of knowledge transfer, he added, “There is huge potential for this industry with both and economic and climatic benefit… but at the same time, how do we provide and impart the knowledge to new users in a foreign language, such that they become comfortable and use oxygen as much as possible?”

In a bid to further lay the foundations for day two’s detailed workshop streams, Mike Ralph of Croydon Health Services proffered a healthcare provider’s take on the discussion. Perhaps most telling was his remark that despite oxygen being the most commonly used drug in hospitals, and although being the responsibility of a pharmacist to dispense, more frequently, its delivery and administration is dealt with by porters and lower-level staff. “In reality everyone has a responsibility to make sure it is safely used and administered,” stressed Ralph.

Ralph divided a healthcare provider’s key concerns into three brackets; security of supply, design and quality. Furthermore, by drawing upon an incident in Warrington, United Kingdom, Ralph illustrated the very costly implications of inadequate attention to these brackets.

Final session speaker, Christian Binder, of BAM Federal Institute for Materials, continued to consider safety conventions associated with oxygen, when he discussed whether an oxygen component can truly be burn-out safe. Not only did the expert define the meaning of burn-out or ignition safety, but he also articulated the variables that contribute to burn-out safety. According to the BAM Doctor mandatory items included an ignition resistant metallic material, proper design, usage within the period of age-resistance and to the specific design pressure and temperature. In a resonating statements, Dr Binder also appealed to all aspects of the workforce, including the sales team: “We at BAM think that the manufacturer has continued responsibilities, as does the supplier and the user himself. I also think that the sales office has a certain obligation and role – their responsibility is not just to educate about the price-tag.”

With such expertise on offer, appetite for the day two streaming sessions was truly whetted. But before breaking for dinner at the Sheraton’s Horizon Room, Michael Wilson from Linde encouraged discussion of the day’s session among the audience. In true workshop form delegates obliged and so circulated a mixture of some objective and some opinionated, but all relevant remarks regarding oxygen safety. Issues such as testing protocols were debated alongside the more weighty concepts of where a manufacturer’s responsibility ends and a supplier’s begins. Professional and productive for all involved, Wilson closed the day with summary points and a view to day two’s streaming sessions.

Tomorrow we will bring you highlights from day two - where interest turned towards large plants, cylinder operations and healthcare concerns… stay tuned.