GSI women: champions of compressed gas safety training – Empowering women throughout industry

As a leading South African provider of cutting, welding and grinding consumables and machines, First Cut has always prioritised safety – and nowhere more so than in the field of compressed gas.

First Cut’s subsidiary and well-known compressed gas safety training company GSI is extremely proud of its female team members, who have an impressive track record in gas product sales and compressed gas safety training.

Melanie Kearns, GSI’s National Product / Sales Manager and Thabelo Rabedzwana, GSI’s  Technical Sales and Training Officer run the company’s compressed gas safety training, and in addition, are also frequently requested to attend private and public sector forums where they share the importance of compressed gas safety. 

Executive Assistant Anneke Hofmeyr is another pivotal member in the GSI team. Supporting Managing Director Peter Rohlssen, as well as Kearns and Rabedzwana, she also contributes to GSI’s compressed gas safety training success.

Sharing the compressed gas safety message

An example of this was the company’s attendance in August 2023 at the government printing works’ national Women’s Day event. Gas safety was the third item on the agenda, and Kearns’s and Rabedzwana’s messages were very well-received, by a very different audience to the more familiar industrial audiences at mining, welding, fabrication and engineering companies.

“Our safety message was still extremely relevant – and empowering to women, being a Women’s Day gathering,” Rabedzwana says of the event. “The response was positive, and we were subsequently invited to present at the University of Limpopo.”

Rabedzwana is quick to point out that the more in-depth training courses offered by GSI usually cover the range of industrial compressed gases used for welding and cutting; whereas the information shared at the government printing works event focused more on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG.)

However, this did not detract from the vital key messages which she and Kearns conveyed around the need for compressed gas safety – particularly since more consumers are moving to gas due to the ongoing national power crisis.

“At this event, we focused more on gas safety for home use, explaining the properties of LPG gas and equipping people with practical knowledge on how to handle it,” Rabedzwana adds.   

“People forget that gas is a propellent in most aerosol cans, and it is important to demonstrate this in such forums and events – as well as to remind the audience about the highly flammable nature of compressed gas and how important it is to  check for leaks before use, and always close the cylinder valve after use.”

Women training – and empowering – women

The perception that the cutting, welding and fabrication sectors are exclusively male domains is changing. Kearns and Rabedzwana are just two of a well-represented group of women in pivotal roles at GSI and First Cut who are championing this shift.

Working in compressed gas sales and safety training roles, these women are also supported by First Cut’s and GSI’s company culture, which fosters the growth and progression of women in the welding, engineering and mining sectors. In turn, they are encouraged by the growing number of female welders and others working throughout industry, attending GSI’s compressed gas safety training seminars.

“The certificates obtained from these seminars are valid for a period of two and three years,” says Kearns.

“Yet many women who previously attended are asking for a refresher course after two years, which just goes to show how much they value GSI’s training, and wish to keep up to date with compressed gas safety.

Furthermore, when we analyse new attendees – particularly in the mining sector – there are always a significant number of women. It is very empowering for us as women in the sector to train and empower other women,” she adds.

Kearns has become a well-known authority in her field, and her passion for compressed gas safety training at GSI (which extends to oxyfuel product sales and accreditations) is evident:

She cites GSI’s Level 3 training seminars, typically conducted over a five day period. “Judging by the evaluations from the students, these high-level compressed gas safety training seminars are very well received. It makes me really happy to see that people are still so positive about our training, and our equipment…it is just the best!”.

By the same token, Rabedzwana says she feels empowered when sharing her knowledge and skills around compressed gas safety, specifically as it applies to the welding sector:

“It is empowering because it saves lives, giving welders working with compressed gas on a daily basis, the knowledge and the confidence to perform their duties in a skilful, safe and responsible manner, while also reducing welding-related costs.”

Growing interest in compressed gas safety training

Interest in compressed gas safety training from women continues to gain traction – particularly in the mining and welding sectors. To this point, Rabedzwana has been encouraged by the increasing numbers of female artisans, welders and fitters from the large mining houses. 

Kearns shares in this optimism, celebrating the growing diversity of attendees at GSI’s  training seminars. However, she would also like to see a more substantial presence of women in  supervisory roles.

“The majority of women who attend our training are welders, boilermakers and artisans – which is great. We do however look forward to seeing more female engineers and engineering contractors attending going forward,” she concludes.