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Martin Isles addresses Chinese aggregates industry

Martin Isles

MPA representative on UEPG Health & Safety Committee speaks at 2nd China International Aggregate Conference

IN December 2015, at the invitation of the China Aggregate Association (CAA), Martin Isles addressed the 2nd China International Aggregate Conference in Nanjing.

Speaking as the Mineral Products Association’s representative on the Brussels-based UEPG Health & Safety Committee, which he chaired from 2007 to 2015, Mr Isles was the sole European at the Conference, delivering presentations focusing on recent health and safety innovations in the aggregates industry, prefaced by a brief summary of the UK industry.

At the conference, CAA President Hu Youyi said that since 2011 the Chinese aggregates industry had been transformed, and that while there was insufficient supply in some regions, the industry was now capable of producing high volumes of high-quality aggregates.

He added that considerable emphasis was being placed on environmental protection, and that large numbers of companies had been shut down to protect resources and the environment.

The latest focus, said Mr Youyi, was on production customization and research and development, with huge future demand for construction anticipated for the ‘Silk Road Economic Belt’ and the ‘21st Century Maritime Silk Road’.

Martin Isles said it was clear that the CAA recognized the value of international co-operation and acknowledged the need for China to make rapid progress across a range of issues to catch up with the aggregates industry in the developed countries. He also noted that ‘processing safety’ was mentioned only twice, whilst there were scant references to occupational health.

After outlining the current status of the UK aggregates industry, and taking a glimpse into the future evolution of construction activities in the UK, Mr Isles went on to summarize the core values of the Mineral Products Association, before moving on to focus upon health and safety.

Starting with a brief look at the British health and safety system and its hierarchy of control, he referred to the link with EU legislation and the ever-stronger focus on corporate social responsibility. Sources of inspiration were shared, majoring on www.Safequarry.com for English-speaking audiences.

Particular emphasis was placed on the goal of Zero Harm, which Mr Isles defined as zero injuries plus zero damage to occupational health – for employers and contractors, alike.

To illustrate recent advances in the UK, Mr Isles showed a range of award-winning video clips demonstrating a wealth of health and safety talent and innovation. He said it was heartening to witness, during this stage of the presentation, many of the conference delegates video recording the innovations on their mobile phones. This, he said, was evidence of success in sharing, globally, the good ideas and innovations for which the UK industry is justly proud.

Rounding off his address with a passionate appeal to Chinese aggregate producers to start thinking very seriously about the control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), Mr Isles rated this as the number one global occupational health challenge for the aggregates industry.

In closing, he said that if a company or an industry aspires to become truly world class, then they need to achieve and sustain Zero Harm. Nothing less will do.

During a post-conference interview with China Aggregates Net, Mr Isles said he was delighted to be informed that the CAA is drafting a health and safety standard to allow the Chinese aggregate industry to accelerate catching up in the health and safety arena.

When the interviewer expressed concern over China’s short period of experience compared with that of Europe, Mr Isles refuted this as being a problem and said that, instead, it should be considered as a positive challenge that can and will be overcome.

He recommended the CAA to look around the world to find the best ideas about health and safety, adding that if China’s aggregate industry refers to and acts upon the experiences of the best examples of the developed nations, it will make rapid progress. 

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