The joint Safety Unites: Compressed Gas Safety Conference held recently in Johannesburg, represented a collaboration by the Bolt and Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) Group, First Cut, Gas Safety International (GSI) and Germany’s Messer Cutting Systems: a powerful partnership between industry peers, uniting stakeholders across the compressed gas value chain, for the ultimate safety and benefit of all.
The conference also served as a platform from which to launch a new patented oxyfuel system which will represent a revolutionary step forward for compressed gas safety in industry.
Critical need for compressed gas safety and training
Mike Giltrow, CEO of the B.E.D. Group explains: “Compressed gases have multiple applications across all industries, including mining. However, incorrect use thereof brings with it some serious potential hazards. Gas safety issues can therefore cause injury and even fatalities – affecting companies’ productivity, share price and reputation – not to mention the obvious and most important consequence of loss of life and human tragedy.”
Peter Rohlssen, Managing Director of Gas Safety International (GSI) concurs: “Numerous incidents and fatalities have occurred locally and globally in the past. Yet most of these could have been prevented with proper safety awareness and training.”
Rohlssen notes that one of the worst compressed gas safety incidents South Africa has ever seen occurred on 16 September 1986, when the Kinross Mining Disaster, an oxy/acetylene- related incident, claimed the lives of 177 people.
“This infamous tragedy highlighted the dangerous consequences of not following the prescribed compressed gas safety procedures and protocols – and the critical importance of compressed gas safety awareness and training,” he explains. “As part of many investigations related to compressed gas safety, I have noted that its general awareness across industries rises and falls in a cyclical fashion. These days, adequate and appropriate compressed gas safety training is needed more than ever – but there are few who can provide it.”
Rohlssen advises that together with colleagues and fellow conference partners the B.E.D. Group, First Cut and Messer Cutting Systems, GSI is strongly advocating for industry to be more aware and proactive regarding compressed gas safety.
The four companies have therefore come together to underscore the importance of awareness, knowledge and training across all sectors of the local compressed gas value chain – and to introduce a revolutionary patented oxyfuel system to the market, in a global first.
Powerful partner synergy
Ian McCrystal, First Cut CEO, explains that the Safety Unites – Compressed Gas Safety conference came about because of the synergistic relationships already in existence between the four conference partner companies.
“In 2019,” McCrystal clarifies, “First Cut became the primary local distributor for Messer Cutting Systems. To ensure that our differentiating feature would be around safety factors, we entered into a relationship with Peter Rohlssen, owner of GSI, who brought tremendous experience and credibility to our offering via compressed gas safety training, consulting and auditing.
Additionally, we entered into an agreement with the B.E.D. Group in 2019, whereby First Cut and B.E.D. would jointly distribute Messer products in South Africa, with B.E.D. focusing on the mining industry, and First Cut remaining the primary distributor to the metal fabrication and other sectors.”
Giltrow adds: “This resulted in a deeply synergistic relationship between all four companies, with each party contributing to an excellent fusion of expertise and interests. The conference was therefore the perfect platform via which to launch our ground-breaking triple-patent product offering related to compressed gas safety.”
Martin Zeller, Division Manager Sales: Oxyfuel Business Unit at Messer Cutting Systems, adds: “Compressed gas safety is a critical issue globally, and it is imperative for us to protect the lives of those using it across multiple industry sectors. We are pleased that our synergy is working to highlight the importance of compressed gas safety, and that it has also produced this world-first patented oxyfuel system.
Internationally, we are not aware of any similar synergistic partnerships in the compressed gas safety and training arena – the collaboration between the four conference partners is truly unique.”
McCrystal advises that conference highlights included live compressed gas safety demonstrations by GSI’s Peter Rohlssen and Axel Vogelsang, Key Account Manager Western Europe and Africa for Messer Cutting Systems.
Speakers included Leigh McMaster, Principal Specialist: Safety and Behaviour, Minerals Council of South Africa; Wilco Uys, keynote speaker and mining professional; Dr Thabo Mashongoane, Acting CEO of the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA); John Emholz, Global CEO and President of Messer Cutting Systems and Dr Rüdiger Lotz, Deputy Head of Mission at the German Embassy in South Africa.
“Another key highlight was also the launch of the world-first patented product offering which our collaboration has recently produced,” he adds.
Launch of leak-proof oxyfuel system
Rohlssen continues: “Compressed gas safety risk is centred around people, product and process. However, the human factor is always the weakest link. We were therefore very pleased to launch our world-first patented leak-proof oxyfuel system at the conference today, specifically for the industrial and mining sectors, which will revolutionise compressed gas safety.
The system involves three newly-patented Safety Advanced Technology (SAT) components (process, valve and cutting torch) to mitigate for the risk of workers not checking for gas leakages before they use oxyfuel equipment. I believe this really demonstrates the relevance and success of this unique four-way partnership!”
Adds Giltrow: “B.E.D.’s infrastructure and footprint, and our strong relationship with the local mining industry, will play a key role in rolling out this new SAT patented product offering, via our Export division. This will ultimately greatly contribute to improved compressed gas safety within the local and pan-African mining sector.”