Common Non-Routine Safety Risks Before Plant Shutdown
Routine plant shutdowns are vital to allow time for upgrades, changeovers, in-depth housekeeping, preventive maintenance tasks, and other tasks that aren’t part of a facility’s daily operation schedule. However, tasks scheduled to be accomplished during plant shutdowns are non-routine and can present different hazards as compared to those faced during normal operations. Below are some of the most common risks during a plant shutdown that you should consider reviewing and incorporating safeguards into plans and procedures for each to help better manage each project.
How often do you clean and upgrade confined spaces in your workplace? Shutdowns can be vital to help you get into the hard-to-reach areas, especially those that have limited means of entry and egress, and aren’t intended for continuous occupancy. Common hazards in confined spaces include vapours that create an inhalation hazard and insufficient oxygen. Workers should always get a permit before entering any confined space. It’s also important to train your workers prior to the shutdown to ensure their competence and safety against confined space hazards.
Elevated Work Surfaces
Projects such as cleaning, painting, and housekeeping may require your workers to work at heights on elevated platforms such as safety ladders and scaffolds. It’s your duty to ensure your workforce is properly trained to work at heights and are aware of fall-from-height hazards. Sufficient training prior to performing the tasks is very necessary, especially if the employees rarely work at heights. Also, ensure that all projects that will require workers to work on elevated surfaces are evaluated by qualified personnel, who must determine the best solutions to ensure the safety of the workers. The evaluations will also help the person in charge identify the training needs and different equipment to be considered.
If you’ll be conducting maintenance and repairs on some sections of your pipelines, you’ll need to drain the affected pipeline for convenience. However, draining the lines may not eliminate all the hazards. The lines may still contain liquid or vapour residuals that could be poisonous or flammable. You need to have a better understanding of all the characteristics of the liquids or gasses in the pipeline to help you make the necessary preparations when the line breaks or when you’re about to conduct other maintenance functions involving pipelines.
Shutdowns can be a great opportunity to examine your electrical wiring solutions and ensure you’ve installed more permanent options. You may need to install outlets, pull wires, and access all the electrical panels. Having a certified electrician who understands the hazards of working with electrical power sources to oversee the process will help ensure the safety of your workforce and the business, as well. Any workers and visitors who will be around the area while the upgrades take place need to be aware of any electrical hazards, especially those that can hardly be guarded.
Communication and Training
You need to have a clear list of all the tasks to be accomplished during the shutdown. For every task, you also need to have a clear plan and objective that lists the procedures to be followed for a successful project. Ensure to discuss the shutdown maintenance plan with your managers, supervisors, and employees who’ll be involved to ensure the right tools and equipment are available and that timelines are realistic. This also allows time for any specialized training necessary before the shutdown.