With the holidays around the corner it is time to start preparing for shutting down and quality time with family. This season provides plant and facility operations with unique circumstances outside of standard operating conditions. Utilize these tips to ensure the safety of yourself, your team and your facility. From all of us at GCES we wish you a safe holiday season filled with family, friends, laughter and joy.
Let’s begin by reviewing the Top Safety Considerations During a Shutdown:
Slips and Falls: Per OSHA, slips and falls are the accidents most cited during a shutdown. As a result of the demanding schedules of shutdowns and turnarounds, workers tend to be more likely to create spills or other slip hazards and be slower to clean them up or otherwise address them.
Collisions: During shutdowns, turnarounds are often performed, causing transportation equipment and heavy machinery to be brought in. Ensure that this equipment is only operated by qualified personnel and that personnel portion off areas of high activity to allow for movement. Have additional personnel to assist in guiding the machinery operator around the facility in an effort to avoid possible collisions, including those overhead – like powerlines or pipe racks.
Materials Storage: During shutdowns, operating personnel are usually at a minimum, but that won’t stop potential disaster from striking. Properly store and secure materials prior to the completion of a plant shutdown.
Exposure: In facilities that manufacture or utilize large quantities of chemicals, petrochemicals and similar biproducts, exposure to toxins is an important safety consideration. The most common of these chemicals can include:
- Flammable gases and liquids
- Toxic fumes
- Airborne fibers, powders or dust
Implement these 10 Steps to Safely Perform a Shutdown:
- Risk evaluation: Conduct a risk assessment by reviewing your lockout procedures
- Time: Allow you and your team sufficient time to plan for the shutdown
- Plan: Create a detailed plan and that lays out all shutdown actives and associated risks discovered in step 1, taking careful note of the safety considerations in the beginning of this article. Include tools, equipment and resources, as well as adequate personnel for performing the work and providing safety support.
- Unplug/isolate equipment: While either working on or leaving machinery/equipment unattended, properly lock it/tag it out. The reduction of moving parts and energy sources during a shutdown is essential to keeping employees safe.
- Material Storage: All hazardous and dangerous materials should be properly stored and kept out of both immediate work areas and areas with environmental exposure. Gas and air cylinder valves should be in the shut positions with regulators removed and safety caps installed.
- Avoid Reducing Workforce: Of course, you want to allow your staff to leave early for the holidays, but that leaves the remaining workforce with additional responsibilities. Often these responsibilities are unfamiliar to remaining personnel or leaves them with an over extended workload, both of which are potential safety risks. Make sure people are qualified and properly trained.
- Communication: Again, this seems simple, but communication is critical during abnormal operating conditions. Ensure that all personnel are aware of any codes used to improve efficiency in an emergency. Confirm that all site personnel have been informed of their responsibilities, their support personnel and their immediate manager so that situations are able to be quickly addressed as they arise.
- Document, document, document: Every procedure should have operating documentation. Every action should be documented. Any changes in operation should require documentation and signatures from both outgoing and incoming operators. Document injuries, emergencies and near misses so that operations can continually be improved.
- Assign the right person to the right job: Heavy machinery plays a huge role in shutdowns. Personnel assigned to this machinery should be qualified, trained and of sound mind and body prior to operating it.
- Safety Review: Once a year conduct a safety review including emergency response procedures and relevant short codes.
Safety Considerations during a Startup: Shutdowns and startups are short, hectic and inherently dangerous. The right planning, training and communication can help keep everyone safe.
Experience: Many plants require manual operation during startup which is often unfamiliar territory for plants with continuous operations. As a result plant personnel may have little experience in these operating conditions.
Exhaustion: Operators often return to a startup after facing holiday travel delays, aggressive work schedules due to shutdowns and seasonal illnesses making them less alert. Encourage team members to report physical conditions that may affect their performance.
Equipment modifications: Modifications are often made during shutdowns that are managed by either contractors or maintenance staff vs. operating personnel. Remember any changes in operation should require documentation and signatures from both outgoing and incoming operators.
5 Steps to Safely Perform a Startup: In order for these steps to be effective a safe shutdown must have been completed.
- Procedures: Ensure that your startup team is familiar with both the operating procedures of the equipment they manage as well as general plant operating procedures. If for some reason the operating manuals for your pollution control equipment is unavailable please consult our service team for a replacement and to help ensure the safety of your staff and your facility. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Checklist: Have complete written startup procedures and checklists for all of your equipment. Confirm that each level of management and operator is familiar with the checklists and understands the importance of proper implementation.
- Team Meeting: Prior to the startup have a team meeting to address any questions, concerns, equipment modifications and changes to procedures.
- Very Shutdown: Verify with all responsible parties that appropriate shutdown procedures were implemented, appropriately documented and shared with all parties that will be affected during the startup.
- Communication: Confirm communication protocols between operating personnel, outside operations and the control room (or personnel) as applicable.
PME’s have many advantages including the following:
- Minimizes the chances of an unexpected system shut-down,which can often cost thousands, if not millions, of dollars in lost operating production.
- Significant operating expense savingsthrough calibration of system settings, resulting in increased efficiency in the unit operation.
- Reduces the chance of regulatory compliance issues.
- Improves the life and uptime of the system and components.
- Reassures that your air pollution control and heat processing equipment is properly operating.
Shutdowns, turnarounds and startups are expensive enough when they run smoothly, if incidents occur the expenses are exponential and often result in delays. It is critical to remain focused on safety to maintain efficient operations.
For information on how to reduce plant shutdown costs review this article from GCES.