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Award Winners Share Insights, Experiences from the at the Compressed Gas Association 2022 Annual Meeting

CGA 2022
Francesco Maione (left) of Air Products and Chemicals and CGA’s Rich Gottwald (right) present Vaughn Sears of Eleet Cryogenics with the Leonard Parker Pool Safety Award, Group II – 2 Million or Less Employee Exposure Hours.

Garry Sears, President of Eleet Cryogenics, Inc., won’t be displaying the company’s most recent Leonard Parker Pool Safety Award in the lobby. Rather, he says, it will go in the room where employees congregate for monthly safety meetings. That way, whenever they gather, “They get to look at the wall and see those awards that they’ve achieved,” he says. “This belongs to them.” 

Eleet Cryogenics, based in Bolivar, OH, has earned the distinguished honor three times. Sponsored by Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., the awards are presented annually to the participating CGA member companies that have recorded the greatest improvement in safety performance during the previous two years, and are based upon the total recordable case incidence rates as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Eleet Cryogenics received the award in the category of those with 2 million or less employee exposure hours. American Air Liquide Holdings, Inc., received the award in the category of those with more than 2 million employee exposure hours. The honor is named in memory of Leonard Parker Pool, the founder and former chief executive of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., and this year’s winners were announced in April at the Compressed Gas Association 2022 Annual Meeting in Florida. 

Sears attributes the win to investments made in time and resources. That includes training new employees about potential hazards, as well as having and maintaining updated equipment—and ensuring workers know how to use that equipment properly. 

His best advice for others, then, centers on awareness. “Make sure employees are fully aware of all of the things that could cause them to get hurt,” he says. “Make them aware, and then remove any obstacles. Make sure they’re trained. Give them the good equipment and resources to work with.” 

His own company, he says, had an accident in the past related to a lack of employee awareness. It wasn’t catastrophic, but it was enough to blemish the record—and to inspire changes. “I’m really proud of this award,” he says. “And I’m proud that our employees take responsibility for their own safety, and for safety around them.”

The combined American Air Liquide team including Airgas and Air Liquide, meanwhile, earned the prestigious honor for the first time with Airgas as part of the Air Liquide family. It’s an achievement, says Richard Pawulski, Vice President, Industrial Direction – Large Industries, Air Liquide North America, and Chris Herbert, Vice President of Health, Safety, Environment & IMS – Airgas, an Air Liquide Company, “That makes us extremely proud.” 

“Both Airgas and Air Liquide endeavor to achieve the goal of zero: zero injuries, zero accidents, zero environmental incidents and zero notice of violations, and understand that this goal is one requiring continuous improvement,” Pawulski says. “We believe that the health and safety of our associates, customers, business partners and visitors must always come first.” 

Safety is a fundamental value, he says, and it is “an integral part of Air Liquide’s operational excellence and culture. The Air Liquide Group is committed to efficiently, and under all circumstances, reducing the exposure of its employees, customers, subcontractors, suppliers and local communities to professional and industrial risks.”

At Airgas, Herbert adds, “We also recognize that our safety initiatives are not only critical elements to achieving compliance, but also for ensuring that we are both good stewards of the environment and community partners. Airgas’ commitment to keeping our worksites safe and compliant makes Airgas one of the leading national safety suppliers—backed by the expertise of 60+ QSSP- and OSHA 30-certified safety specialists.”

Over the last two years, the focus has been on ensuring that the critical elements of the Industrial Management System—the core of Air Liquide activities—are fully in place and functioning. That system is built around three top priorities: personnel safety, process safety and road safety. And that, Pawulski says, is a “great place to start” for any company. “Put safety at the core of your processes, paired with policies and standard operating procedures, and surrounded by training, communication and awareness all along,” he says.

Also announced at the annual meeting: the CGA & GAWDA Distributor Safety Awards. These awards, sponsored by CGA and GAWDA, recognize participating GAWDA distributor companies showing the greatest improvement in safety performance, and encourages a renewed focus on safe corporate cultures within the distributor community.

WestAir Gases & Equipment, Inc., in San Diego, CA, earned the honor in the category of more than 100,000 employee exposure hours. This marks the first time WestAir has been recognized for the award. Keith Martinez, Director of Safety, Quality, Compliance and Security, says historical data was showing that the safety program was “moving in the right direction, but this was a pleasant surprise.”

“Our employees understand that safety is the most important job they have, and to be recognized by the CGA and GAWDA is a clear indicator that their hard work and discipline to safety is making a difference,” Martinez says. “With regards to the recognition personally, it’s satisfying, but we are only as good as the people we surround ourselves with, and we have a great team of individuals within WestAir that truly understand the meaning of safety.”

When arriving at WestAir eight years ago, Martinez says, the short-term plan was to “implement a safety culture by building processes, procedures and consistency throughout the organization, to ensure all employees were equipped with the proper tools to perform their jobs safely.” It took a few years for employees to fully embrace the new safety culture, but then “we started to see our hard work pay off with a gradual downward trend year over year in our recordable injuries, vehicle accidents and near misses.” In addition, the distribution team has performed at a very high level, with drivers achieving the One Million Mile Challenge, driving one million miles with no recordable vehicle accidents.

Creating a safe corporate culture overall, he says, must come from the top down. “With the right leadership and tools, our employees have embraced our safety culture, because from the beginning the message was very clear from our executive team: Working safely is critical to not only our employees, but to the future of WestAir.”     

GAWDA’s partnership with CGA provides distributor members with access to a library of more than 375 safety publications, eLearning modules, safety posters, and more. Participating members are eligible to participate in the CGA and GAWDA Distributor Safety Awards Program. For more information, please visit https://www.gawda.org/resources/cga-subscription-program/. 

  

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