OMCs to intensify Peer Audit Activity to avert Future Gas Explosion

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Oil Marketing Companies and Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers (OMCs/LPGMs) operating in the downstream sector have come under intense criticism from individuals and institutions for ignoring operating safety rules that govern the industry following the October 7, 2017 Atomic Junction Gas Explosion that led to the loss of seven lives and injuring some 132 persons who are currently recuperating from the various hospitals.

The disaster, the 8th in the country in 3 years has also destroyed properties worth millions of Ghana cedis has attracted the attention of the highest decision making body of the country, the Cabinet following the failure of constitutionally mandated regulatory institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Petroleum Association (NPA) to act to bring discipline and sanity to the industry and protect the safety and the interest of long suffering consumers.

In the wake of verbal attacks, the Association of Oil Marketing Companies [AOMS] have reacted strongly to protect their badly battered image and integrity. Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Duah, the Chief Executive Officer [CEO] AOMS opined that the Association would not in any way shield any member who violates the rules and regulations of the industry especially in a manner that endangers lives and property.

He calls for due process to be followed in dealing with individuals and companies who are found culpable. The CEO of AOMS stated that “we duly acknowledge that we have prime responsibility of making our facilities safe and secure for our numerous customers who we have served with the supply of LPG for about 30 years with petrol and diesel for about 100 years.

In this regard, one would expect that in these tough times, we will seek to be united as a collective force to correct and prevent the reoccurrence of such incidents, as safety is a shared responsibility for operators, regulators, agencies, customers, the general public and the government.”

Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Duah turned the heat on critics, saying “it is however sad and disheartening to hear, read and witness a plethora of comments from pseudo experts with no little knowledge and understanding of the LPG industry and those who should have known better, but for reasons unfathomable, throwing dust into the eyes of the public with falsehood, half-truths and inaccurate information. Such flammable utterances, innuendos and castigations have the tendency to kill initiatives and denigrate the OMCs/LPGMs who have invested in these retail outlets and have been rendering very meaningful services to the country at large.”

At a news conference in Accra, he said it is a common knowledge that it takes a prospective retail outlet owner more than six months to obtain all the necessary permits and approval prior to the commencement of the construction process with borrowed funds at high interest rates. The CEO of AOMS said “we wish to inform the general public that the retail outlets are sited in areas zoned for the purpose by the Town and Country Planning Department. It must be noted that NPA will only grant an applicant a construction permit when all the various requirements had been met. These include a letter from Town and Country Department indicating that the site has been duly zoned for the activity; an EPA permit, building permit by the District, Municipal, Metropolitan Assemblies, fire permit by Ghana National Fire Service, Ghana Standards Authority certification among others.’’

Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Duah contended that the above mentioned rigorous process should tell every body that this is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country and the Association members are among the most law-abiding business operators in the country since they go through all these steps before operating. He said even when the outlets had been constructed and are being operated, there is continuous inspection and monitoring by the regulators and other agencies to ensure that the retail outlets are operating according to the prescribed standards of performance, adding that it ensures that member’s outlets are manned by qualified managers and supervisors whose responsibilities include ensuring that the day-to-day operations at the stations are safe.

While it waits patiently for investigation report on the Atomic Junction gas explosion, AOMS have agreed to intensify the peer audit activity with priority to outlets in congested areas especially on discharge of LPG from bulk road vessels, continue to provide the requisite training for all its personnel especially the attendants, drivers and their mates, continue to explore and introduce new technology to enhance its operations and outlets and intensify public education on safety in collaboration with the media.

Commenting on its working relationship with regulators, he said the Association would continue to work closely with them to comply with their regulations. Regarding their safety auditors, Mr. Agyemang-Duah said AOMS recommended that the recruitment of the said auditors must be such that they are located in the related districts or municipalities to enhance appreciation of the requisite environments from which they operate.

He urged AOMS and regulators to work together and continue to review the job safe procedure of transferring or discharging of products.

Source: Adovor Nutifafa

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