22 February 2013 10:29 [Source: ICB]
In efforts to enhance the performance of their members, US industry associations the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA), are continuously improving their environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) programmes, Responsible Care and ChemStewards, respectively, to help companies address emerging industry issues.
As it celebrates the 25th anniversary of Responsible Care this year, the ACC is forging ahead with plans to reinforce the programme. A three-year strategic review, which also involved external stakeholders, ended in November 2012 with a number of changes adopted by the ACC board.
Debra Phillips, managing director for Responsible Care at ACC, says these issues were already being addressed within the Responsible Care programme at a general level, and are now expanded as more detailed requirements and points of emphasis. "Responsible Care is expanding into these key emerging issues, which are strongly related to sustainability," she says.
Phillips explains that the amendments are a response to a greater focus within the industry on product safety and safer operating practices, particularly in the light of major industry disasters such as the BP Texas refinery explosion in March 2005, which claimed 15 lives and injured more than 170, and the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in April 2010, which killed 11 workers and led to a massive oil spill along the Gulf of Mexico.
ACC is now developing training tools and materials for the Product and Process Safety Codes which will go live in 2014, while 2013 will be a "build-up" year, allowing companies to get ready for certification for the new and updated requirements.
The organisation has also turned its attention to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) after becoming aware that they needed greater assistance in tackling the implementation of Responsible Care. ACC is conscious that, for some small companies, Responsible Care can be viewed as a barrier to membership. To combat this, it offers a dues waiver for the first three years and is asking companies to invest the monies in complying with Responsible Care instead.
Phillips believes the dues holiday, as well as ACC's ongoing support and one-on-one assistance to new members during their first three years, is a cornerstone to attracting more SMEs.
Boosting the organisation's visibility outside the chemical industry is another key aim for this year and beyond. "We are using the enhancements to expand our visibility and highlight our members' commitment to these important issues," says Phillips.
She explains that ACC focused on Responsible Care as a programme that would drive performance improvement, not as an exercise in public relations. "Responsible Care was not designed to be a branding tool," she states.
Outside the US, Responsible Care continues to grow. Phillips says the programme has expanded to the Arabian Gulf, China and Russia in the last five years, and, in 2012, was adopted in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Meanwhile, eight years ago, SOCMA rolled out its ChemStewards programme after determining Responsible Care did not meet the needs of its membership. Dr J Holland Jordan, managing director of ChemStewards, says the programme has shown that member firms are looking for ways that ChemStewards can help them be more efficient and save money, in addition to bolstering safety and security.
ChemStewards has come a long way since it was launched in 2005, says Jordan. He believes the best attribute of ChemStewards is its flexibility to be scaled up or down depending on the size of the company or facility. It is based on three separate tiers - tier 1 (fundamental), tier 2 (enhanced performance) or tier 3 (excellence) - applicable to the EHS&S needs and structure of individual members.
"All of our members are very different," remarks Jordan. "This makes it a challenge, but it also makes it fun." By the end of 2012, SOCMA had 98% compliance in its membership, which comprises 140 different facilities, says a very pleased Jordan. In 2012, another 28 companies joined SOCMA, taking total membership to about 220.
He says he is proud of the success of ChemStewards, and he is keen to continue building up its profile both inside and outside the industry. Jordan says that an increasing number of customers are recognising the value of ChemStewards, as does insurance company AIG, which will reimburse clients for their third-party audits.
"Our members want to get better every year. The programme needs to get better every year. We will keep adding new things as the industry and our members require," states Jordan.
Member companies are also singing ChemStewards' praises. McGean, a specialty and custom manufacturer based in Cleveland, Ohio, US, joined the programme when it started because the company wanted to strengthen its own in-house safety programme.
Bryan Shaffer, production manager at McGean, is extremely positive about the impact ChemStewards has had on the company's safety culture. Not only has the company's programme and statistics improved but the severity and frequency of injuries, incidents and near-misses has been reduced. "Our overall awareness and ability to measure has become much greater. You cannot put a price tag on that - it is a mindset and attitude to safety," he comments.
For Shaffer, one of the best aspects of ChemStewards is that it forces companies to challenge themselves in their EHS&S programmes. He rates the support from SOCMA and the ChemStewards team as "phenomenal", as is their flexibility in how companies implement the programme and adapt internal management systems to their requirements.
Echoing Shaffer's words is Phillip McCarter, vice president at Nation Ford Chemical, who cannot speak highly enough about what ChemStewards has done for the company. Based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the custom manufacturer of specialty organic chemicals was keen to join because it felt ChemStewards would give it more control in its own EHS&S system.
McCarter believes that being part of ChemStewards gives the company a marketing edge. "It shows our commitment to very high standard, and the third-party auditing gives our customers additional peace of mind."
He is very enthusiastic, too, about ChemStewards' annual Performance Improvement Awards, which he says are a great way to recognise companies that have accomplished significant EHS&S achievements, such as waste minimisation and resource conservation. In the last three years, Nation Ford Chemical has won four silver awards, a feat of which McCarter is very proud.
It does not stop there either. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the company is working towards entry to tier 3 where the lure of a gold award (only silver and bronze awards can be won in tiers 1 and 2) is driving it to cut its reportable injuries rate, as well as satisfying other criteria.
"We want to win gold, because we want everyone to know how seriously we take EHS&S at Nation Ford Chemical: that is our motivation to get to tier 3," states McCarter.
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