GAWDA’s Guardians Of Safety

Committee strives to minimize risk to individuals and companies.

Safety is a concern to everyone in the gases and welding industry, from suppliers and distributors to the end-users they serve. For one group, however, the safety of GAWDA members and their customers is a primary concern. GAWDA’s Safety Committee works to ensure that GAWDA members—and the members’ end-users—are operating in the safest manner possible. The 11-member committee does this by working with a team of consultants to keep abreast of the latest safety concerns and rule changes that impact the gases and welding industry. The committee also maintains a relationship with other associations such as the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) and American Welding Society.

Industry Pioneers
Since its beginnings, the Safety Committee has worked to raise awareness of potentially hazardous situations and of regulations that have been passed which impact the way gases are handled, labeled or used. In the committee’s early years, this meant developing documents that would not only prove useful to members, but also be easy to understand. “In years past, you would get publications to read and you wouldn’t understand what you just read,” notes Safety Committee Chair Bonnie Stanage, vice president for safety at Matheson Tri-Gas (Albuquerque, NM). “It looked like you were reading the regulation.” Though easier-to-read materials are the rule instead of the exception these days, Stanage believes the Safety Committee helped lead the way in the industry.

Even with easier-to-read safety materials, the challenge remains to ensure that those materials are seen by individuals throughout the industry, since when dealing with compressed gases or welding equipment, ignorance is not bliss. “There are people who feel like the regulations don’t pertain to them and they’re playing with fire,” laments Stanage. The committee has devoted itself to raising awareness throughout the industry, both to GAWDA members and non-members.

The committee meets face-to-face at least once a year and conducts a quarterly conference call. It also receives input from GAWDA’s Executive Committee, as the GAWDA President or other executives often sit in on the meeting, ready to provide immediate feedback on proposals. “We already have the decision makers very involved,” says Stanage. “That saves a lot of time and cuts through a lot of red tape.”

Top 10 OSHA Violations, 2007
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted 39,324 inspections in FY2007 and found 88,846 violations of the agency’s regulations. Here are the top 10 areas in which safety violations were found:
1. Scaffolding
2. Fall Protection
3. Hazard Communication
4. Control of Hazardous Energy
5. Respiratory Protection
6. Powered Industrial Trucks
7. Electrical (wiring)
8. Ladders
9. Machine Guarding
10. Electrical (general requirements)

Consulting with Industry Experts
One of the keys to the committee’s success is GAWDA’s team of outside consultants. There are four consultants to the committee—one for issues with medical gases and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one for security concerns and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), one for issues related to human resources and government affairs, and one who advises the committee on issues related to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The consultants are available via phone or e-mail whenever a GAWDA member has a question.

GAWDA’s consultants were busy in 2007, especially as the January 2008 deadline for companies to comply with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s updated Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards approached. While a number of GAWDA members deal with smaller quantities of the gases named in the revised standards and therefore are exempt, a number of larger distributors and suppliers were impacted, and the Safety Committee worked to keep these companies abreast of the necessary steps for compliance.

The rule change highlights just one instance of the committee working to get information out to members in a timely manner. The committee utilizes a number of avenues to get the word out. In the past, where the committee relied heavily on mailings and phone calls, they now utilize e-mail and Web-based information. In order to get their message out, the Safety Committee uses the GAWDA Connection, GAWDA Edge and Welding & Gases Today, and the online Safety Organizer and Safety Tip of the Month on GAWDA’s Web site. Stanage says that the Web and e-mail have made the committee’s job easier. “We can get alerts out in minutes now,” she notes.

Read More Online

Read the Safety Committee’s Action Plan for 2008. The Safety Committee is taking on customer safety, LP gas storage, hazmat security, self-assessment and more.

In 2008, the committee will be helping to develop an online training program called “GAWDA University,” that will allow members to complete any mandated safety training for new hires or annual retraining of personnel. This will allow member companies to provide accurate training records in accordance with regulations.

Though the Safety Committee is made up of 11 members, four consultants and a representative of CGA, Committee Chair Stanage points out that they welcome questions, comments or concerns from any GAWDA member. “The more communication we can get back and forth, the more readily we can address issues through public knowledge and training.”

GAWDA Safety Committee Members
Bonnie J. Stanage, Matheson Tri-Gas, Inc. (Chair)
Larry Bates, Maine Oxy-Acetylene Supply Co. (Vice Chair)
John R. Anderson, Airgas-SAFECOR
Gregory P. Barnett, Linde Gas LLC
Chuck Britton, nexAir
Ed Henne, South Jersey Welding Supply
Kelly Bladow, Oxarc, Inc.
Don Busch, Linweld Manufacturing-Waverly Air
Paul Scott, Scott-Gross Co.
Jim Herring, SafTCart
George M. Ketler, SHEA
J. Robert Yeoman and Ron Ball, FDA & Medical Gases Consultant
Michael Dodd, DOT & Security Consultant
Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., Government Affairs & Human Resources Legal Consultant
Thomas W. Eynon, OSHA & EPA Consultant
Roger Smith, Compressed Gas Association

Gases and Welding Distributors Association