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Tag Archives: environment health and safety

Plant Outage Safety: Make a List and Check it Twice!

By Mandy Sunderland, Senior Industrial Hygienist

It is recognized that well-planned and executed outages are far less expensive and much safer than taking a reactive approach and responding to unplanned failures as they occur.

Tremendous effort typically goes into planning and coordinating the various aspects of a major outage to maximize repairs and preventive maintenance that can only be conducted in “shut down” mode. It is critical that all issues, like industrial hygiene, rescue and safety personnel, are fully addressed in the early phases of outage planning. Playing catch-up in these areas can have a negative impact on worker safety, project budget and schedule.

Industrial Hygiene Management

Assessing risks of chemical and physical exposure for the myriad activities involved in major industrial outages can be daunting for even the most seasoned Industrial Hygiene professional. But a comprehensive IH assessment is an essential part of outage management to assure IH resources are allocated properly, controls are provided and exposures are monitored.  Creating a comprehensive list of activities and potential exposures will protect workers, improve safety and reduce costs during the outage process.

From the assessment, the information should then be compiled and prioritized for controls and monitoring.  Priorities should be established based on:

  • Toxicity and immediate risk to workers
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Understanding of the work activity
    (are exposures related to the activity well understood and documented, or is
    this a new or unique potential exposure that is not well understood?)

Emergency and Rescue

Having highly skilled safety personnel on standby to protect workers in emergency situations reduces liability and increases productivity by being able to respond quickly and appropriately. Rescue personnel should provide:

  • Self-rescue and rescue team training
  • High angle, hull entry and confined space rescues
  • Safety supervision and confined space assessment
  • Space or site rescue pre-planning and pre-entry equipment staging
  • Proper entry permit documentation
  • The writing of hull entry procedures and guidelines
  • Continuous atmospheric monitoring and ambient air testing

Specialized Industrial Safety Personnel

Industrial Safety Technicians and Safety Attendants (holewatch/firewatch/bottlewatch) increase safety and efficiency and reduce costs. By having Specialized Safety Personnel on an
outage provide excellent benefits, like:

  • More competitive billing rates
  • Craftsmen are not tied up performing attendant duties
  • Reducing the number of multiple contractor employees, thus reducing the total man-hour costs of the project
  • Immediately being able to provide time tickets and head count reports, as well as up-to-the-minute cost reporting

Due to the high cost and loss of production associated with outages, it is essential these are executed as efficiently and safely as possible.  Proper management of safety issues during outages can help your company increase profitability and decrease liability during crucial outage and shutdown periods. Outages are hectic, chaotic and stressful by nature. By making your safety list (and checking it twice), you can help ensure the success of your outage!

Emergency Response Industrial Hygiene Monitoring

Because of the unique challenges surrounding emergency response IH monitoring, choose a provider that is able to develop written protocols/procedures, to deploy teams and equipment quickly, to provide experienced/knowledgeable personnel, quality support staff, and can adapt to ever changing conditions.By Lisa Browning, Training Coordinator

The time is now! Plan for how your facility will conduct emergency response industrial hygiene (IH) monitoring. What should you be looking for in a provider of this service? Because of the unique challenges surrounding emergency response IH monitoring, choose a provider that is able to develop written protocols/procedures, to deploy teams and equipment  quickly, to provide experienced/knowledgeable personnel, quality support staff, and can adapt to ever changing conditions. Some of the more challenging issues arising specific to IH monitoring include but are not limited to mobility, flexibility, proper equipment, documentation, reporting, and site specific training.

Developing written protocols/procedures has to occur first. The protocols set the applicable exposure levels, alarm levels and actions including deployment of respiratory protection, establishment of safe zones, evacuation, shelter-in-place or other personal protective measures.  Reporting mechanisms, format and timing of data reports should also be included in the protocol.  It is important to remember that reports are often shared not only with the client but others as well including federal, state and local authorities. Therefore, a data management support team must be available 24/7 to provide quality assurance and create a database from which a variety of reports can be prepared quickly.  Certified industrial hygienists should be utilized to write the IH sampling protocol and be available to lead project management.  Summary reports that pull all of the information together at the end of the event should be prepared and retained just as any other industrial hygiene medical record.

Next comes deployment which includes both necessary equipment and a team of personnel to operate the equipment. Your provider has to have the equipment in inventory or else have connections already in place to get it. Equipment ranges from simple personal monitoring pumps to the more technologically advanced real time wireless monitoring systems with built in GPS and data management software. All of which must be rugged, portable, intrinsically safe and able to collect large quantities of data for the specific contaminant(s) of concern.

One thing often overlooked is the need for an IH Mobile Command Center. It must communicate with both the site’s incident command center and also the outside world. A high speed Internet connection is needed for monitoring data management software. A standalone IH Mobile Command Center will not interfere with the incident command center  communication requirements but seamlessly integrate on site.

Training is a valuable component. Your provider should have the ability to train their own responding team and also be available to train other site workers. Monitoring personnel should have completed HAZWOPER, Incident Command, NIMS, respiratory protection and other standard courses. However, prior to deployment, training should occur on the incident IH monitoring protocol, site specific hazards, client’s procedures, reporting requirements, and equipment use.

Support away from the response is required. The provider needs to have a strong support staff  provide additional resources to handle issues that may arise during the sampling. Plan now and choose your emergency response IH monitoring provider with these criteria in mind to ensure that your facility is fully prepared for any emergency response.