On 11 April 2019, On the occasion of the WRA Board meeting in Washington D.C., WRA’s President, Stefan Borgas, CEO of RHI Magnesita, sat down for an interview to talk about the future of WRA and the refractory industry.
Stefan, since January 2018 you chair the World Refractories Association. Time for an interim check. Are you still as enthusiastic as you were a year ago when you took over the presidency?
Of course, the WRA is a great pool of know-how. With joint forces, the refractory industry can represent its agenda better and louder than any individual member. We are determined to be a driving force, not only in our industry, but also in our customer industries.
About “joint forces”: It was your goal to increase the number of WRA members. Have you been successful?
I´m satisfied, but there’s still potential for improvement. The WRA was founded in 2014; when I took over the presidency last year, the WRA had four members, now we are 13. One or the other are still pending. We will definitely not let up. We need to be a powerful player to tackle the challenges our society is facing. We need to be part of the solution and contribute to sustainable wealth globally.
In 2017 the WRA became a member of the WSA, the World Steel Association. Since 2018 the WRA is even an affiliated member. How loud is the voice of the refractory industry there?
We have chosen to participate in four working committees of the WSA: Economics, Technology, Safety and Environment. I have to admit that our degree of recognition is not very high in these circles yet, but believe me, we´re working on it. How I´d like to catch the attention of the steel industry? To start with, production statistics of refractories could be of interest for the WSA. The WRA could therefore help to raise awareness for the importance of refractories in the steel industry.
As the world safety day is just around the corner, finally a question on the subject of security. You are known for strictly enforcing "Safety first" in all areas. Even in meetings, the topic is always on top of the agenda. What's the point?
The point is to give top priority to the issue of safety. This applies the WRA as well as all its members. "Zero accidents" must be our clear goal. The more attention the topic gets, the better. And it is well known that the attention span of meeting participants is highest at the beginning. But this is only a small tip. Much more important is the real reduction in the number of accidents.
So what is the WRA able to contribute to improve the situation?
The first step for improvement is always evaluation. This means in the first step that each member company has to record its own safety figures. From the sum of the data the WRA can gain valuable results. The issue of safety is one where we urgently need to work together. Competition considerations must take a back seat here. This is about avoiding accidents. Every accident is one too many. This is precisely why safety will always be number one on my agenda. … So please ask me that question next time right at the beginning.