The South African Fluid Power Asso- ciation (Safpa) urges hydraulics and pneumatics companies to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves against product liability repercussions under the new Consumer Protection Act, No 68 of 2008, which was implemented this month.
Section 61 of the Act introduces strict product liability, a principle previously determined by common law, for the first time in South Africa. Manufacturers, distributors or suppliers are liable for a product for six months should it have a defect that causes financial loss, injure a person or damage property.
As a result, Safpa president Norman Hall expects many companies to subscribe to the association’s standard hose assembly procedures for hose manufacturing, assembly, storage and testing, which are based on European best practice.
The association provides hose assembly accreditation to ensure a standard method is used throughout the hydraulics and pneumatics industry to prevent bad practices, such as the mixing and matching of parts belonging to different manufacturers.
“The mixing of products could cause leaks and even explosions, resulting in injury or death as the parts provided by different manufacturers are not designed to fit together. Further, another bad practice involves the use of old rubber hoses to save costs. A hose has a life span of about ten years as rubber becomes brittle over time. Therefore, if a hose is older than six years, it is best to replace it,” says Hall.
Currently, one company has been audited and accredited as a Safpa-accredited hose manufacturer, while other companies are still finalising processes for the various procedures involved, he explains.
The association’s aim is for end-users to specify the use of the Safpa-approved hose-assembly methods.
Safpa created hose-assembly procedures that suit the South African market by liaising with the British Fluid Power Association (BFPA), which has created standardised procedures for hose assembly in the UK.
Safpa has, with the help of the BFPA, also introduced a one-day safety training course on hose assembly, which includes the correct procedures for cutting, skiving, crimping and testing a hose, as well as information on the consequences of not adhering to these procedures.
The material from the BFPA was received in January with the first course expected to take place in May at the latest.
“There is a significant demand for training involving this subject, as a result of past acci- dents and the continuous need to train new staff,” says Hall.
Hydraulics Fitter Apprenticeship
The association has also created an apprenticeship for hydraulics fitters, as a signifi- cant portion of government’s minimum requirements for fitters falls outside the scope of the hydraulics industry.
For example, the hydraulics industry requires fitters to understand basic electronics, as electronic modules are increasingly being used to drive hydraulic units. This is not a basic fitter requirement in other industries.
The Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (Merseta) has approved the training material provided by Safpa for the hydraulics fitter apprenticeship. However, the authority will only issue the material to accredited training providers. There are currently no companies in South Africa accredited to provide hydraulics fitter training.
“This makes sense; however, companies in the industry cannot become accredited training providers without the material needed to teach the apprentices,” explains Hall, who says a number of hydraulics companies are attempting to become accredited training providers.
Merseta requires either a hydraulics company to create a division that is specifically devoted to training, which includes establishing specific procedures, such as the evaluation and moderation of students, or for current training providers to upskill and buy the necessary hydraulics training equipment before they can be recognised as accredited training facilities for hydraulics fitters. No privately run hydrau-lics companies currently have this facility.
“It has been a long road; however, the industry is so close to achieving its goal that it will definitely not give up now,” concludes Hall.