Originally formed in 1973 as the Hydrocarbon Solvents Association, the Solvents Industry Association (SIA) as it is known today came into being a decade later when its scope was broadened to encompass the full range of chemical solvents. The SIA exists to promote the safe, sustainable and responsible use of solvents and solvent-based materials in the United Kingdom, although in practice its influence spreads far beyond this country.
Despite being based in the UK, the Association maintains a close and growing partnership with CEFIC, in particular with the European Solvents Industry Group (ESIG). The SIA is unique in that it is the only national trade association within Europe to represent the solvents industry. Its expertise and experience allows SIA member companies to directly contribute to and benefit from wider initiatives across Europe. This growing influence has been particularly evident in the past decade and looks set to continue to grow.
The Association’s strength is its members. The membership is drawn from the complete supply chain and includes solvents manufacturers, distributors, hauliers, storage companies, packaging suppliers and other industry stakeholders. All member companies contribute to the Association’s output and the complete coverage of the supply chain gives the SIA its unique perspective on all aspects affecting the solvents industry.
Although it is led by its Executive Committee, the SIA’s powerbase is its Technical Committee, whose current Chair is Dr. Rob Oades of Shell Chemicals. Both committees meet quarterly, with the Technical Committee’s membership being drawn from 15 experienced technical personnel from member companies and whose range of activities cover all matters relating to Safety, Health, and the Environment (SHE). The group shares their knowledge and expertise on industry best practice with Members, end-users and regulatory authorities. SIA members and committees come together each year for the Annual General Meeting where the activities of the Association are presented and industry-related guest speakers also address the Membership. Speakers at this year’s AGM, which will be held in Cheshire in October, will be covering topics as wide-ranging as the “Trump Effect” on the chemical industry globally, REACH in the United Kingdom after Brexit, and the chemical industry in the North West of England.
So what does the Association do? Its three cornerstone activities are Product Stewardship, Advocacy and Communication. All are familiar words or phrases within the chemical industry but for SIA Members there are specific outputs generated from each area.
The SIA encourages best practice, principally through the publication of a series of Guidance Notes which cover all matters related to SHE. These notes are published, monitored and reviewed on a regular basis by the Technical Committee, whose industry experts are able to share views and formulate the Notes. Subject matter for these Guidance Notes includes the appropriate type of IBC to use for each solvent, working in confined spaces, solvents and static electricity and even how much solvent to fill into packages. We all know the hazards that many solvents carry, but their use is often crucial to the modern way of life. In certain instances there is little or no alternative to the use of a certain solvent so all steps must be taken to enable its safe. Web-based Guidance Notes are a prime example of how best practice can be communicated across the industry on a global level.
The SIA regularly consults with and advises UK industry and regulatory bodies through its advocacy work, often working in partnership with bodies such as the Chemical Industry Liaison Group. Recognising the global aspect of the solvents industry (some of the Association’s members are global multi-national companies), the SIA also has close contact with European legislators through its links with ESIG, enabling it to keep abreast of and influence international industry trends and developments.
Perhaps the most valuable output from the SIA in recent times has been from the production of a series of safety films designed for all companies and employees handling chemical solvents. The most recent covered ‘Safe Handling of Solvents’, ‘Solvents and Static Electricity’, and ‘Solvents and IBCs’. So far more than 10,000 copies have been distributed across Europe and beyond in five different languages. The SIA has also been the driving force behind an ESIG-produced film covering the ‘Safe Use of Gloves’. A further film covering the ‘Safe Loading and Transportation of Solvents by Road’ is currently in production and is due to be released later this summer. At first glance, many of these topics can appear to be unexciting but anyone who has viewed readily-available film clips of incidents which have taken place involving road tankers or in the filling of IBCs will be fully aware of the unseen risks which can exist in the handling of solvents. Preventative actions, assisted by such documents and visual aids as the use of Guidance Notes and safety films can only improve the practices of individuals handling solvents, wherever they may be.
In addition to the production of safety films, the SIA is now presenting training courses. The most recent, ‘An Introduction to the Solvents Industry’, is aimed at new starters or those seeking greater knowledge of the solvents industry. In the past three years it has already been delivered to over 200 delegates and has been rolled out across Europe in collaboration with ESIG. Such has been the success of the course that the Association is now in the final stages of launching its follow-up, ‘Solvents and their Applications’. Training is an integral part of any solvents education programme and these courses reinforce the SIA’s commitment to Responsible Care and to Product Stewardship, a fact recognised when the SIA was awarded the coveted SME Assistance Trophy by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) in 2013.
Said to regularly punch above its weight, the SIA is now well established among the European chemical industry as a constructive and positive contributor to all matters related to the safe use of solvents. SIA General Secretary Andrew Norman commented, “Despite being a relatively small UK-based trade association, our outreach is now truly global. Whether it be the on-line availability of our safety films, training courses or Guidance Notes, the influence of the SIA now enables all sectors of the solvent-using supply chain to implement best practice wherever their operation may be.”
For further information, visit the SIA website at www.solvents.org.uk