Responsible Care programme
Set up in South Africa in 1994
By the nature of many of its products, the chemical industry, internationally, is a significant source of serious health, safety and environmental threats, and it has had its share of problems in all those areas. After a series of disasters in the early 1980s, in 1984 the Canadian Chemical Producers Association developed and launched the Responsible Care initiative to bind members of the industry to a set of principles which would lead to continued improvement in health, safety and environmental performance. In 1985 the USA followed and by 2008, 53 countries had adopted the initiative.
In South Africa, the Chemical and Allied Industries' Association (CAIA), founded in 1993 but with much older roots, launched its Responsible Care programme in 1994 “to respond to public concerns about the manufacture, storage, transport, use, and disposal of chemicals”, according to its website, and 2 of its 5 “primary goals” – “to promote Responsible Care and to monitor its implementation”, and “to earn public trust for the chemical industry” – are related to those concerns.
“RC focuses on improving performance and spreading good management practices; promoting mutual support between companies and associations; encouraging companies and associations to inform their stakeholders about what they manufacture and what they do about their performance, including reporting performance data; helping the industry to engage and work with stakeholders at local, national and international levels and listening and addressing stakeholders concerns. It achieves this objective by meeting and going beyond legislative and regulatory compliance by adopting cooperative and voluntary initiatives with government and stakeholders. The RC Global Charter commits to adopting global RC core principles, advancing sustainable development, continuous improvement and the reporting of performance, enhancing the management of chemical products worldwide (Product Stewardship) and addressing stakeholder expectations about the chemical industries activities and products.”
CAIA represents about 25% of the South African chemical industry by employee numbers. Its 180 members include corporates like Sasol, Omnia and AECI, and most multinationals with South African subsidiaries. The balance of the membership is made up of medium- and smaller-sized South African companies. 150 of the members are signatories of the Responsible Care programme, which groups health and safety with environmental issues and transparency.
“Our members employ about 37 000 people full time,” said CAIA director: information resources, Dr Mike Booth. “On top of that, they employee about 30 000 contractors a year, who work for varying periods of time. As far as we can divine, the industry as a whole employs 166 000 people, excluding contractors.” CAIA says Responsible Care is “more than a set of principles and declarations”. “Through the sharing of information and a rigorous system of checklists, performance indicators and verification procedures, it enables the industry to demonstrate how it has improved over the years and to develop policies for further improvement. In these ways, Responsible Care helps the industry to gain the trust of the public and to operate safely, profitably and with due care for future generations.”
The programme includes supplying reportable injuries to the Department of Labour. These are broken down into injuries suffered in production, storage, transport and so on.
While the aim of Responsible Care is to reduce PPE’s role to precaution, it remains a requirement.
“The cost of PPE isn’t usually discussed,” he said, “the requirement is. In our industry, I don’t think PPE would ever be regarded as a potential area to save cost.”
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