07 October 2014

The Voice of Kevin Robertson, Managing Director of LP Gas Safety Association of South Africa

The Voice talked to Kevin Robertson, recently appointed Managing Director of the LP Gas Safety Association of South Africa.

The Voice: Kevin, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, its an exceptionally busy time for the South African Industry so we’re keen to hear your thoughts.  Please tell us a little about the LPGSASA and its key activities

Kevin Robertson:  The LP Gas Safety Association of South Africa (LPGSASA) has always focused on the promotion of the safe use LP Gas by encouraging adherence to best safety and business practices throughout the industry. We represent members throughout the industry from the major suppliers of gas, through to the distributors and LPGas dealers. This also includes the manufacturers/importers of LPGas appliances and equipment as well as the installers of such equipment. We also interface on the industry’s behalf with many stakeholders including government departments, the media and the public.

TV: You’ve recently been promoted to Managing Director, many congratulations on this achievement.  What are your main objectives for the initial few months?

KR:   To a certain extent, we will be looking to get back to basics: to grow our membership base, to identify areas or activities which threaten to compromise safety within the industry and to encourage continued adherence and compliance of existing players. We are also looking to establish stronger relationships with relevant government departments to enable closer cooperation and to position LP Gas as an ideal alternative energy source.  Probably our main focal point will be on training: to ensure we provide the right level of training with the right balance of theory and practical aspects. We have an industry which has the potential to grow almost exponentially. If we don’t keep our industry safe we could miss out on capitalizing on that potential. We see training as the key to sustained growth.

TV: Is there a typical profile of companies who become a member of the association or is there a wide scope for types of members?

KR:  Our existing members include the major suppliers of LP Gas who sustain the Association through their support including participation on various technical committees which operate under the LPGSASA umbrella. By so doing, the Association is able to harness the experience and expertise of many industry experts to ensure the industry stays compliant, safe and relevant. Identifying a typical member is rather difficult as members range across a wide variety of sectors. We encourage all industry players to join the Association as it is easier to communicate with them once they are. Communicating important safety matters, such as changes in regulations and/or standards is imperative if we are going to keep the industry compliant and safe. However, we do have a Code of Ethics and if members do not comply they are advised that their membership has been terminated.TV: What do you see as the key challenges today in your specific geography

KR:  Promoting LP Gas as an alternative to electricity – gaining far greater exposure for the product and making potential users aware of the numerous benefits of using it. At the same time, we need to ensure that safety standards are adhered to as any bad publicity will have a negative impact on the industry and damage the ‘safe’ reputation it currently enjoys.  As LP Gas becomes more popular, so companies and individuals see it as a ‘lucrative’ industry to participate in. Unfortunately, this also encourages unscrupulous operators who would rather make short term profits – even at the expense of the user’s safety.

TV: And what about the main opportunities?

KR:  South Africa currently faces some serious challenges in terms of the supply and cost of electricity. Therefore consumers are looking at alternative sources of energy and LP Gas is poised to fill a large part of this void. More and more consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of using LP Gas for domestic commercial and industrial applications. The per capita consumption of LP Gas in South Africa is still very low – which means there are great opportunities to grow its use.

TV: As a major association in our industry, what benefits does being a member of WLPGA bring?

KR:    In many instances, South Africa is embarking on uses and applications which many other countries have been enjoying for many years. While these countries are looking for applications ‘beyond the kitchen’ our industry is looking to capitalise on uses within the kitchen - as well as other applications of a domestic nature. Being a member of the WLPGA gives us the opportunity to learn from other countries instead of having to grow through that learning curve.  We have often used WLPGA personnel to assist us in projects, workshops and conferences or just simply to answer some questions. It’s a great help to us. Currently, we are facing some challenges with regards to illegal filling activities and the WLPGA provides a platform whereby we can interface with Associations from other countries to understand how they have addressed such problems and if their actions could work for us. Hopefully, we have provided some solutions for other WLPGA members as well. Membership of the WLPGA also gives us credibility amongst many of our stakeholders as they realise the importance of not only having and independent body such as the LPGSASA, but also one which has the backing of an independent, international authority.

TV: And any final comments?

KR:   The LP Gas industry in South Africa is currently poised for exciting times and the LPGSASA is determined to not only participate in this, but also to continue to play a major role in the future of the LP Gas industry.  We look forward to achieving this with the continued support of the World LP Gas Association.