Energy Safety Issues: briefings by Eskom, Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of South Africa & National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa


20 June 2012
Chairperson: Mr L Landers (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee had invited Eskom, the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of South Africa and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa to present briefings on energy safety.  Representatives from the Department of Energy and the Department of Health attended the proceedings.

The briefing by Eskom included statistics on the number of fatalities and injuries suffered by members of the public over the previous three years, the major causes of fatalities and the strategy to educate the public on the dangers of electricity.  The major challenges faced by Eskom were illegal electricity connections, theft and non-payment and theft of infrastructure.  An integrated, comprehensive approach was followed and the entity worked closely with local government authorities to address the challenges.  Eskom had developed an education and training strategy to engage with school children, communities, the agricultural sector and the construction industry.  A typical Eskom pre- and post-electrification education presentation was included.

The briefing by the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa examined the underlying causes and the emotional, physical and socio-economic impact of safety incidents involving the use of paraffin by predominantly poor sectors of society.  The Association was involved in community engagement, scientific research, surveillance, education and training and the formulation of policy.  Partnerships had been formed with local and provincial government authorities, disaster management centres, consumer protection organisations, the South African Bureau of Standards, oil companies and media organisations.  The briefing was illustrated by a simulation of a shack fire and a movie clip of a Paraffin Safety Educator engaged in educating a community on the safe use of paraffin.  Statistical data on the types of energy sources used in low-income households, the average expenditure on energy as a percentage of household income, the causes of fires, the age and demographics of energy-related injuries and the types of energy-related and burn injuries in South Africa.  The mandate of the Association was expanded to the Household Energy and Efficiency Safety Association of Southern Africa.  The need for a national household energy policy was advocated.

The briefing by the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Safety Association of South Africa covered the benefits and applications of LPG, the LPG distribution chain, safety aspects and the applicable standards and regulations.  The most significant challenges concerned illegal cylinders, filling of cylinders, incorrect storage of cylinders, illegal retailers and filling sites and a lack of citizen safety education.  Solutions to address the challenges were included.  The Association had identified the key role players in the LPG industry and the role played by each stakeholder in promoting safety.  The Association managed several schemes to promote the safe use of LPG in South Africa.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa presented a verbal briefing that focused on the health and safety issues of less-organised sectors, such as workers on the forecourts of filling stations.  Structures were in place to deal with health and safety issues in the larger organised industries, such as Eskom.

Members of the Committee asked questions about the design of paraffin stoves; the inspection and monitoring of LPG filling sites; the collaboration between Eskom and local government authorities to combat cable theft and illegal connections; the security of supply and availability of LPG; the disproportionate percentage of income spent on energy by poor households; the vulnerability of toddlers and young adults to injury and fatalities involving paraffin and fires; the impact of injuries and fatalities amongst employees and contractors of Eskom; the monitoring of adherence to health and safety regulations by Eskom contractors; the adequacy of funding for the Associations and the effectiveness of the partnerships that had been formed with other stakeholders.

The Committee intended to keep energy safety on its agenda and would invite representatives from the Departments of Energy, Labour and Health and other stakeholders in the energy sector to participate in future discussions.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed delegates to the proceedings.  The Committee had invited stakeholders in the energy sector to present briefings on the safety issues associated with energy generation and consumption.  The briefings would cover the risks to households and businesses when using various sources of energy as well as the dangers faced by workers in energy production and consumption.  The Committee intended to invite the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) to present briefings on the safety requirements applicable to appliances at future discussions.  The Department of Energy (DOE) had been invited to attend the briefings.

Mr Arico Kotze, Committee Secretary, tabled the apologies of ANC Members of the Committee Ms B Tinto, Mr S Mayatula, Mr S Radebe, Ms N Mathibela and Mr E Lucas (IFP) and Ms B Ferguson (COPE).

Briefing by Eskom
Mr Alwie Lester, General Manager, Eskom Western Cape and Mr Maboe Maphaka, Senior Manager: Energy Trading and Sales Forecasting, Eskom presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

The briefing covered Eskom’s objectives concerning public safety and statistical data of fatalities and injuries suffered by members of the public since 2010.  The major causes of fatalities were illegal electricity connections (particularly in informal settlements), direct contact with electricity due to a variety of factors and motor vehicle accidents involving Eskom vehicles.

Eskom has a comprehensive public education programme in place, targeting customers, industry, schoolchildren and parents, rural and peri-urban communities, informal settlements, the agricultural sector and the construction industry.  Strategies included school campaigns, community engagement, electricity safety week, media messages, engagement with the agricultural sector and the construction industry and promoting vehicle safety awareness amongst Eskom personnel. 

Operation Khanyisa was launched in October 2010 to promote public safety awareness in partnership with Proudly South African, Business Against Crime, Crime line, Primedia, the South African local Government Association and Business Unity South Africa.  Eskom’s approach was to work with communities and raise awareness by education.

The integrated approach addressed electricity theft, safety, energy efficiency, non-payment for services and theft of infrastructure.  The objective was to influence South Africans to be legal, safe and efficient users of electricity.  Incidents could be reported anonymously to a dedicated SMS number.  To date, more than 3,000 incidents were reported and the campaign was considered to be successful.  The total budget for the safety campaign was R18 million.

The briefing included an example of a typical Eskom pre- and post-electrification Public Safety Education presentation.  The presentation included safety tips, illustrations, do’s and don’ts, the correct way to connecting a plug and warning of the dangers of home-made stoves.

Briefing by the Paraffin Safety Association of Southern Africa (PSASA)
Mr Patrick Kulati, Managing Director, PSASA and Mr Dehran Swart, Senior Project Manager, PSASA presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

PSASA was established in 1996 by the petroleum industry as a paraffin safety initiative.  Paraffin was extensively used (particularly in in informal urban and rural settlements) as a source of energy for cooking, heating and lighting purposes.  Paraffin poisoning, fires and burns were the major areas of concern.  The briefing was illustrated by recent newspaper reports and movie clips of a shack fire simulation and the work done by Ms Sibongile Zenzile, a PSASA Educator.

The underlying root causes of paraffin safety incidents included poverty and unemployment, systemic issues and the prevailing conditions at the point of consumption.  The emotional, socio-economic and physical impacts of energy-related injuries were outlined.

The work of PSASA included community engagement, scientific research, surveillance and education and paraffin safety policy development.  A Paraffin Users Household Energy Summit was held in June 2007.  Over 400,000 persons were trained during the period 2007 to 2011.  The list of partnerships included local and provincial government entities, provincial National Disaster Management Centres, the Office of the Consumer Protector and the National Consumer Forum, oil companies and media organisations.  The Injury Surveillance System was established to gather data for research and to design appropriate interventions.

Currently, 3.4 million households in South Africa had no access to electricity.  The utilisation of the different energy sources in low-income households for cooking, hearing and lighting purposes was indicated.  67% of poor households had a monthly income of less than R1,000.  The average expenditure on energy of the poorest category was 26% of household income.

An analysis of the causes of energy-related fires indicated that the majority (32%) was caused by an exploding stove.  Data on the age and demographics of victims indicated that the most vulnerable age group was children between age 1 and 2, followed by young adults aged 25 to 35.  An analysis of the nature of energy-related injuries showed that burns from liquid (38%), ingestion (23%) and burns from flame (18%) were the most significant categories.  Paraffin ingestion accounted for 25% of all ingestions.

PSASA’s mandate was expanded to include the Household Energy Safety and Efficiency Association of Southern Africa (HESEASA).  HESEASA made a submission to the National Planning Commission (NPC) on the need for a household energy policy to be developed.  A proposed framework was submitted that illustrated the need for more collaboration by government entities, the issuing of regulations and the development of standards.  Further discussion on the causes of energy-related safety incidents would lead to the development of prevention strategies.

Briefing by the LPG Safety Association of South Africa (LPGSASA)
Mr Dennis Herold, Chief Executive Officer, LPGSASA presented the briefing to the Committee (see attached document).

LPGSASA was a non-profit organisation, established in 1987.  The Association promoted safety and compliance of the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry with best business practices.  An overview of the benefits and applications of LPG was provided and the distribution chain was explained.  LPG was distributed either in bulk or in cylinders.  LPG was potentially hazardous and safety was of paramount importance.  Utilisation of LPG did not contribute to indoor air pollution, which was a major contributor to respiratory diseases.

The applicable legislation, regulation and standards framework was outlined.  The industry was regulated through the Departments of Labour and Energy.  South African National Standards (SANS) were issued by the SABS.  Standards applied to cylinders and valves, regulators, hoses and appliances and to LPG installations.

The most significant safety challenges included illegal cylinder acquisition, illegal filling of cylinders, illegal installations, illegal appliances and equipment, over-storage of cylinders, illegal retailers and a lack of safety education.  Solutions to address the challenges were listed.

The key role players in the LPG industry were indicated.  LPGSASA managed several schemes to ensure the safe use of LPG in South Africa.

Briefing by the National Union of Metal Workers (NUMSA)
Mr Woody Aroun, Parliamentary Officer, NUMSA, presented a verbal briefing to the Committee.

NUMSA was pleased to note that the Committee had extended its work to include health and safety issues associated with the energy, which was in the public interest.  The more organised energy sector (such as Eskom) had safety systems in place.  NUMSA took the opportunity to highlight the problems experienced by the less-organised sector, for example workers at filling stations and garage forecourts.  These workers were exposed to chemicals and equipment and worked long hours.

The briefing by Eskom included statistics on fatalities and injuries suffered by members of the public.  Some Eskom employees worked in high-risk occupations in construction and maintenance of high-voltage equipment.  Union shop stewards served on health and safety committees, which helped to minimise the risk exposure of workers.  The briefings made no reference to safety in the group of intensive energy users, such as foundries and smelters.  NUMSA suggested that these industries were included in future discussions on energy safety.

The proliferation of illegal connections was caused by poverty and unemployment and it was doubtful that Eskom would be able to win the war.  NUMSA suggested that the Committee considered increasing the free basic electricity allowance.  There was little benefit in connecting all households to the electricity grid if the cost of electricity was unaffordable.

NUMSA was willing to work with any partners in the energy and associated sectors in order to create a healthy and safe environment for workers and the general public.  Mr Aroun undertook to report to NUMSA on the briefings to the Committee.  The Union’s health and safety coordinator would be able to provide a more detailed account of the experience of the safety aspects of the energy sector.  He thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present the briefing and for the chance to meet representatives from other stakeholders in the sector.

Mr K Moloto (ANC) asked if the PSASA was satisfied the design of paraffin stoves and if the stoves could be improved to minimise the dangers.  He asked LPGSASA if the standards were applied at sites where LPG cylinders were filled and if the organisation undertook inspections of these sites.  He asked if there was collaboration between Eskom and local government authorities when dealing with illegal electricity connections.

Mr L Greyling (ID) observed that the Committee had received much information from the briefings.  There appeared to be a paradigm shift towards how households used energy resources.  The choice of what type of energy to use was driven by economics.  Another issue raised in the briefings was the indoor air pollution caused by certain types of fuel.  It would appear that households were making economically inefficient choices.  An area of concern was the security of supply and availability of LPG.  There was a high up-front cost for certain alternative options, for example solar powered water heaters.  Government was spending significant amounts on the installation of solar water heaters but this did not necessarily result in a reduction in the load on the electricity grid.  It was necessary to consider alternative funding solutions for cooking, heating and lighting.

Mr J Smalle (DA) noted that the poorest sector of society spent the largest percentage of household income on energy (26%).  It was imperative that the energy cost to poor households was reduced and that alternative, safe sources of energy were used.  He noted that the injury targets in the Eskom briefing differed from the information on the entity’s website.  He asked what the impact of injuries and fatalities was on Eskom’s business.  He asked if the fatality and injury statistics included incidents involving sub-contractors.  He wanted to know how Eskom monitored adherence to health and safety requirements by its contractors.  He asked if Eskom’s risk management programmes indicated that there were more safety incidents at certain sub-stations.  He asked if injuries and fatalities were linked to aging infrastructure.

Mr Smalle asked PSASA if LPG equipment and installations should be monitored by the SABS.  He asked what monitoring role was played by PSASA and what action was taken when deviations from the regulations and standards were found.  He asked if PSASA was fully funded by the petroleum industry and if the organisation was efficient.  He noted that the Association had only four offices in South Africa.  He asked if PSASA had access to the remote, rural areas of the country and if there were any plans to change its operational structure.

Mr Swart replied that PSASA was involved with the SABS in the development of the SANS.  Regulations were in place that required the testing of appliances but to date only one manufacturer had been found to be compliant.  The products of that supplier were not regarded to be very safe.  There was a lack of products in South Africa and PSASA had raised the issue with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the DOE.  PSASA checked on the appliances purchased by users and had found that most of the products sold cheaply in informal settlements were illegal.  PSASA had been instrumental in the confiscation and destruction of stocks of illegal products.  He agreed that indoor air pollution was a major challenge.  PSASA had links to the United Nations Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves.  Appliances were tested for compliance to carbon monoxide emission requirements.

Mr Kulati explained that PSASA did not have offices in all the provinces due to limited resources.  Personnel were deployed to cover all the provinces.  PSASA was engaged in developing partnerships with provincial authorities.  The arrangement worked well but took time to develop.  PSASA had a fund-raising programme and encouraged partners to carry some of the costs, for example the University of Tshwane paid for the cost of stationery and training material for training courses.

Mr Glen Truran, General Manager, PSASA agreed that understanding of household energy needs and appropriate solutions was a challenge.  In South Africa, the assumption was made that a household needed to have a supply of electricity.  PSASA challenged this assumption and looked at using alternative sources of energy.  Safe paraffin stoves were produced in Japan and it would be much cheaper to import these stoves for installation in millions of homes than to build new power stations.  There was a false perception that paraffin was “dirty” and should be banned but it was possible to have clean emission fuel-burning system.  It was necessary to address the socio-economic problems when considering alternative sources of energy.

Mr Herold advised that he had served on the SABS committee responsible for developing SANS 10087.  The committee had worked with local government authorities and the Department of Labour on the development of the standards.  Part 3 of SANS 10087 dealt with the filling of LPG cylinders.  Part 7 of the standard dealt with filling sites.  The Hazardous Substances Act applied to LPG sites.  The site had to be approved by the local government authority.  Plans had to be submitted and the site was subjected to annual inspections by the fire department, which issued a fire hazard certificate.  LPGSASA was involved when there was a safety incident involving LPG.  The Association provided training and did an assessment to establish whether or not the training had been effective.  The only major incident concerned the recent explosion in a Johannesburg shopping mall.  There were three injuries but no fatalities on that occasion.  LPGSASA checked if all the regulations were complied with and if standards were adhered to.  The South African police Service (SAPS) was involved if there were any fatalities or injuries.

Mr Herold said that the issue of security of supply was a subject for much debate within the LIP sector.  LPGSASA had briefed Parliament, the DOE and the Department of Economic development on the subject during 2011.  He understood that the DOE was currently reviewing the applicable regulations.  There was increased demand for LPG in South Africa.  A new storage facility was being built in Saldanha and a second facility was being considered.  A recent visit to the oil and gas fields in Qatar had confirmed that there was abundant global supply of LPG but there were challenges with transporting the product.  The DOE was a key player in the development of a local manufacturing industry and the import and storage of LPG.

Mr Lester confirmed that Eskom worked closely with the local government authorities to deal with illegal electricity connections.  There were currently two pilot projects underway near Cape Town to test alarm systems to combat cable theft.  Eskom recorded a loss time injury (LTI) rate to measure the impact of safety incidents on operations.  The LTI for 2012 was 0.41.  The target for 2013 was 0.2. The statistics provided in the briefing only covered injuries and fatalities involving members of the public.  In 2012, there were 13 fatalities involving Eskom personnel and 12 fatalities involving contractor employees.  Eskom had a generic site safety plan and required contractors on large projects to submit a site safety plan, appoint a safety officer and provide protective clothing.  The Eskom Clerk of Works visited sites and carried out inspections and stopped work if it was found that there was non-conformance.  A certificate to resume work was issued once the problem was corrected.  The safety risk on the distribution side was higher.  There were more than 20,000 Eskom employees in distribution operations.  3,000 employees worked in transmission operations.  Most incidents involving theft and vandalism occurred in the distribution side of operations.  Safety incidents were not linked to the condition of the plant.  The focus of Eskom’s senior management was on changing the attitudes of personnel towards health and safety issues and to educate the public on the dangers.

Ms Lusanda Jiya, General Manager: Stakeholder Relations, Eskom advised that the calculated cost to Eskom of safety incidents was R1.2 billion p.a.

The Chairperson remarked that the activities of the health and safety forums had been erratic and Eskom was asked to provide input.  The Committee had invited the DOE to provide a briefing but the Department had responded that the Department of Labour was responsible for safety issues.  He asked which government Department was responsible for dealing with illegal LPG retailers.  He wondered how neglected rather than illegal equipment was being dealt with.  Another matter for consideration was the adequacy of funding for organisations such as LPGSASA and PSASA.  The Committee would invite the renewable energy sector to give input at future discussions as well.  He welcomed the suggestion from NUMSA to involve the intensive energy users sector in future briefings.  The Department of Health could contribute to the discussion by providing input on indoor air pollution.  He thought Eskom’s approach to encourage schoolchildren to educate their parents was a good idea.  He asked PSASA to comment on the most vulnerable groups to safety incidents involving paraffin being very young children and young adults and on the large percentage of incidents involving stove explosions.  He asked how effective the partnerships had been and if the arrangement compensated for resource constraints.

Mr Kulati explained that most of the appliances prone to explosion were low quality, illegal imports from China that did not conform to South African standards.  PSASA worked with the South African Revenue Services (SARS) customs division and was recently involved in the impounding of a large consignment of illegal stoves and heaters ostensibly destined for one of the neighbouring countries but actually intended for sale in South Africa.  PSASA was a non-governmental organisation with limited resources.  Its main aim was to train the stakeholders in the paraffin energy sector.  The DOE had included an objective for paraffin safety in its strategic plans but had failed to make a budgetary provision.  PSASA hoped the DOE would ensure that funding was made available for the following year as there were a number of issues that had to be addressed.  PSASA had found from hospital records that a number of people in their mid-twenties ingested paraffin in an attempt to commit suicide because of general despair and hopelessness.

Mr Swart added that the incidents involving young children were mainly burns and ingestion from paraffin stored in unlabeled containers or cold drink bottles.  It was necessary to also consider issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse and gender abuse when looking at incidents involving young adults.  More women used paraffin to commit suicide.  He repeated the list of partnerships included in the briefing document.  A comprehensive, integrated approach to training was followed and PSASA had found that life skills education and schools were the most effective to bring the safety message across to young people.  Educators also visited homes and talked to adults and the Association had found that this approach was effective.

Mr Truran remarked that the cost of injuries and fatalities to the economy was significant.  The financial impact on the family when their home burnt down was not adequately taken into account.  Unless the home was insured, a forensic investigation was not done.  Germany had ensured that the installation of solar panels was cheap and affordable and as a result the country was able to produce surplus energy.  Because of socio-economic issues, many children in informal settlements were left unattended.  The regulations governing the proper labeling and packaging of paraffin was not enforced and toddlers were unable to tell the difference between paraffin or a cold drink in the same bottle.  South Africa needed a household energy safety policy.

Mr Herold suggested that the licensing and control of LPG retailers were managed in a similar manner to the licensing and control of motor vehicles.  The Department of Labour enforces compliance to health and safety regulations but there was little control over the sale of LPG.  There was no clarity on whether the Department of Labour or the DOE was responsible.  Safety should be a licensing condition of the licenses issued by the DOE to LPG retailers.  He agreed that equipment at certain installations were neglected.  Health and safety regulations included requirements that equipment had to be adequately maintained but enforcement was generally lacking.  It was not possible to hold the owners accountable for illegal cylinders.  Funding for the LPGSASA was voluntary and the organisation was challenged by a lack of funding.  The Association also had a strategy of interfacing with stakeholders in place.  LPGSASA provided training for firefighters.

Mr Maphaka said that Eskom focused its public education campaign on schools as well as adults.  The pre- and post-electrification sessions were developed to educate communities and customer forums had been established to discuss safety issues.  Eskom had found that it was more effective to educate children at school and to change their behavior.  The message carried more weight if it was passed on by a teacher.  The children passed the message on to their parents.  Eskom was involved in training school teachers but safety trainers did presentations at schools as well.

Mr Landi Themba, Director: Coal and Gas Policy, DOE had attended the briefing with the intention of listening to the energy safety issues raised by the industry.  The DOE’s primary concern had been nuclear safety but the Department was also involved in regulating the LPG industry.  He took note of the suggestions that had been made concerning the inclusion of safety requirements in licensing conditions, the extent of the Department’s involvement in energy safety issues, the role played by the other stakeholders in promoting safety and the responsibility of other stakeholders, for example the transportation of LPG and petrol.

The Chairperson had found the briefings informative and remarked on how the discussion on energy safety had touched on other areas of concern, for example the cost to government to treat illnesses related to indoor pollution.  He felt that the DOE should have been more pro-active in addressing the matter of energy safety and introduced measures to prevent fatalities and injuries.  He gave the assurance that the Committee would continue to place the issue on its agenda.  The Committee noted the issues that were raised during the proceedings and suggested that the DOE undertook a thorough risk analysis.  He commented on the value of edutainment to raise awareness, the collaborative approach followed by the various organisations and the impact of incidents on health and the insurance industry.  The Committee would consider the suggestion that the free basic electricity benefit was increased as it was clear that the poorest sector of society was the hardest hit by increases in the cost of energy.  It was necessary to approach energy safety in a comprehensive manner and for all stakeholders to work together.  He thanked all the participants for their input.

The meeting was adjourned.


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