The Chemical and Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA), the overarching body that represents the chemical and related industries in South Africa, is custodian to a global voluntary initiative.

This initiative, Responsible Care®, envisages a profitable, sustainable chemical sector that contributes to the quality of life and the economy through innovation, production and allied industries without harm to people, property and the environment, says Deidré Penfold, Executive Director of CAIA. “This initiative brings a range of benefits to society while remaining open, honest, accountable and credible in all its dealings.”

The voluntary initiative is the global chemical industry’s commitment to sustainability and has been an important part the South African chemical industry for 23 years since CAIA launched the Responsible Care® programme in South Africa in 1994.

Through Responsible Care®, CAIA promotes the improvement of the safety, health and environmental performance of the chemical and allied industries in South Africa. CAIA members sign the Responsible Care® pledge that commits them to the guiding principles of this initiative and undergo regular self-assessments and third-party audits to ensure compliance.

Penfold says the chemical industry is hard at work contributing towards South Africa meeting the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), based on the implementation of eight management practice standards (MPSs).

“Management commitment, the first of the Responsible Care® management practice standards is the key to achieving sustainability and the prevailing ethic that guides the health, safety and environmental performance of the global chemical industry,” she says.

“Over the past two decades, the Responsible Care® initiative has expanded its influence in South Africa. In the region of one hundred and fifty companies are signatories to the Responsible Care® initiative in South Africa, which shows that the initiative is more than a set of principles and declarations.”

CAIA considers management’s commitment to sustainable development an overarching goal. It also assists in fulfilling the following SDGs: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; peace, justice and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

“Through the sharing of information and a rigorous system of checklists, performance indicators and verification procedures, it enables the industry to demonstrate its improvements over the years and to develop policies for further improvement. Responsible Care® helps the chemical industry gain the trust of the public and to operate safely and sustainably – with due care for safety, health and the environment.”

Environment Committee

To facilitate direct engagement with CAIA members as well as the provision of substantive and company-specific inputs towards advocacy initiatives in the environmental arena, an internal Environment Committee was inaugurated in January last year.

“A need for such a committee was identified following the increasing volume of environmentally related policy and legislation that is being developed at the national level. An additional approach to the association’s existing advocacy strategy was therefore considered to further enhance the value members receive from CAIA and to strengthen engagement with government,” says Penfold.

Penfold says the committee’s aim is to provide a cooperative environment for the sharing of views and the development of advocacy strategies that meet its members’ needs.

The CAIA Environment Committee thus works towards:

  • encouraging the effective strategic review of policy and legislation so that there is an emphasis on its potential impacts;
  • mitigating the temporal and resource burden on companies from an advocacy perspective;
  • mitigating the pressures that increased environmental regulation places on the cost of doing business, and
  • facilitating continuous improvement by Responsible Care® signatories.


Process Safety Forum

CAIA’s Process Safety Forum plays an extremely important role in the chemical industry, says Penfold.

“Forum members meet quarterly in Johannesburg to share knowledge and information on improving process safety. The purpose of the forum is to provide an opportunity for member companies to assist one another by sharing best practices as well as concerns arising from incidents and pooling resources with specific benefits for smaller companies who don’t necessarily have the resources and experience.

“In particular, the forum aims to respond to interest expressed on process safety, promote the Responsible Care® initiative, to encourage compliance with process safety standards, identify processes and mechanisms to promote compliance with process safety standards, encourage the sharing of best practice between Responsible Care® signatories in line with the Responsible Care® guiding principles, and decide how to proceed in order to best achieve these aims”, says Penfold.


Transportation of dangerous goods

The high risks associated with the transportation of dangerous goods on South Africa’s roads, requires the strictest observation of safety, health and environmental practices, says Penfold.

Signatory members with CAIA are assisted in the transportation and related sectors to improve their safety, health and environmental performance for the storage, distribution and transportation of dangerous goods.

Through this, Responsible Care® is able to promote sustainable and safe road and rail transportation operations.

Continuous efforts to improve safety during transportation and the associated handling of chemicals are part of the overall objective of both the chemical and transport industry, in accordance with the guiding principles of Responsible Care®. It achieves this objective by meeting legislative compliance, and by adopting cooperative and voluntary initiatives with government and other stakeholders.

“CAIA encourages operators of heavy commercial vehicles and road transportation companies to introduce a meaningful approach that focuses on crucial safe operating management practices. This includes, but is not limited to, driver health and wellness programmes, effective transport route risk assessment, behavioural based safety for drivers, effective investigation of transport accidents/incidents and the appropriate use of the learnings from such incidents,” explains Penfold.

Companies that are signatories to the Responsible Care® initiative are required to ensure that their transportation service providers comply with the requirements of the South African Safety and Quality Assessment System (SA SQAS).

The SA SQAS is designed to evaluate the quality, safety and environmental performance of chemical distributors in a uniform manner, by means of a single standardised assessment. Although the SQAS audit does not guarantee the safety and quality of the service provided, the system does provide a mechanism to evaluate performance and promote continuous improvement, and provides useful feedback directly to the service provider on the strengths and weaknesses observed during the assessment.

“CAIA has produced a Dangerous Goods Segregation Wheel that indicates the load or storage compatibility of mixed cargoes at a glance, using the class warning diamonds in an easy to use wheel. It assists in the segregation and storage of chemicals according to their hazard class. This prevents an undesirable chemical reaction from occurring should two or more chemicals accidentally mix or be stored next to each other,” says Penfold.

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Detailing the requirements of the Responsible Care® Management Practice Standard

The objective of this standard is to provide guidance to member companies that commit to Responsible Care®, as well as in terms of their responsibilities for crosscutting elements of the initiative. Due to the major implications and responsibility associated with a management team, the management commitment MPS is specific and based on the following seven requirements:

  1. Leadership and commitment

Responsible Care® must be implemented as a key component of a company’s business strategy.

The board is to understand and support it, and must incorporate the associated performance goals, targets or objectives into employee performance evaluations.

Management must also provide opportunities for employees to participate in developing, implementing and reviewing Responsible Care® within the company.

Public comments, concerns and complaints must be taken seriously with the introduction of necessary mechanisms. Management must also establish dialogue with the communities adjacent to its sites in order to address any concerns relating to operations.

  1. Policy

This requires the provision of a written policy, as well as plans, programmes and procedures for achieving continuous improvement of performance.

  1. Management review

It is important to measure performance and audits for achieving or maintaining compliance and the implementation of corrective actions. Timely investigation, reporting and follow-up of incidents are also crucial.

  1. Legislative requirements

The identification and dissemination of all applicable legislation and Responsible Care® requirements covering the full product lifecycle must be ensured. Compliance with all applicable legislation is also crucial as is striving for performance beyond legal compliance.

Management must also co-operate with all other interested parties, government, NGOs, and other chemical companies in creating responsible laws, regulations and standards to safeguard the workplace and environment.

  1. Organisational responsibility

Clear management accountabilities must be established for specific aspects of Responsible Care®, for example, an organisational chart; clearly defined duties and the delegation of responsibilities.

  1. Personnel

Responsible Care® should be integrated into all relevant training courses. Management must identify the skills and knowledge necessary to perform each job, and training must be provided.

It is also important to demonstrate and document skill proficiency prior to the assignment of independent work and periodically thereafter.

  1. Communication

Management is required to raise the awareness of the Responsible Care® ethic with all stakeholders. It must also report on its performance to employees and in an annual report.