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Forecasting Safety: Planning for Accident Free Shutdowns

First and foremost, shutdown managers need to know where potential dangers are. Hazards can't be managed if they aren't on your radar. Make note during the planning
phase of what tasks may produce environmental, health and safety hazards so your team has time to decide what mitigation is needed and how to go about implementing that plan. A filter in modern project management software can be used to flag these tasks for further follow up. Gathering this information needs to be a team effort, drawing on as many resources as possible. Remind your team that all accidents are preventable, and that broadly listing all the possible trouble spots will later allow you to isolate where the most serious problems might happen.

Where will employees be working during this shutdown? Will areas need to be closed off for construction? Will hazardous materials be generated during maintenance or
construction? What safety equipment will be required? The checklist below can start your team thinking about possible safety and environmental hazards and the mitigation required.

Barricades and Movement
Restricting access is a major part of any safety plan. Think about if overhead work is being performed, crane lift areas, and if safety railings or harnesses will be needed. Makesure only trained and authorized workers are in hazardous areas because conditions will be different than during regular operations. This is especially true if outside contractors and workers might brought in who may not be trained to recognize particular safety issues in your plant. Electronic access passes can give a real-time record of what workers are where, and can be extremely useful in accounting for workers in the event of a safety or environmental incident. A check in station might be reserved at a safe "all clear" site.

Emergency and Temporary Equipment
Extra emergency showers and eye baths should always be considered when the number of personnel increases on site. Document that all such equipment has been tested. Provide space for EMTs and first aid stations, and require documentation from any contractor employees who have incidents. Plan for communications like temporary telephones or radios, so that if there are problems, management and response crews can be notified quickly.

Power Generation and Supply
If the shutdown requires power to be generated or routed through temporary fixtures, make sure that this can be done safely. Unshielded panels, temporary lines, and
generators can all be a source of hazards. Make sure that this equipment is inspected and installed correctly. Workers will need to be briefed on any differences from normal operation protocols.

Regulatory Concerns
While regulations may vary depending on your location, in the US OSHA requirements that may come into play include requirements for training contractor employees, crane operation, lockout/tagout practices, electrical safety, and entry to enclosed spaces. Be aware that the nature of work during the shutdown may require attention to different safety standards than normal operations.

Waste Disposal
Liquid waste from certain cleaning operations may not qualify for handing with in the inplant industrial sewer. These materials need to be identified ahead of time for proper handling. Review in detail plans for spill control, containment, and disposal. Solid wastes can be generated as well, especially in construction. Review what precautions need to be made in removing hazardous materials, and what safety measures will be taken by the workers performing these tasks.

Being pragmatic about what can be achieved in a given time is the best strategy to safely complete work on schedule. Aggressive time estimates don't work, creating a situation where the timeline is more likely to fail, which might prompt some workers to cut corners. At the end of a shutdown, employees have been working under pressure for some time and face the final deadlines for resuming operations. Optimism is good, but realism is better.

Heavy Equipment
When heavy equipment is operating, it is crucial to keep non-authorized workers out of the way. While the rush of a shutdown might tempt some to schedule too many tasks in the same area, some procedures require keeping a safe distance. Crane operation, in particular is a hazard: the entire lift area needs to be kept clear.

All of these suggestions point towards safe working conditions, but the final piece of the puzzle is safe practices. Inexperienced or improperly trained workers can present a major hazard. A simple task involving an electrical hazard becomes potentially fatal if the wrong tools are used. The best asset you have in preventing accidents is a properly trained workforce. Reviewing safety standards before a shutdown can pay majo dividends.

Training and planning gives your workforce the opportunity to identify and manage hazards during the shutdown period. With good planning, you'll get back to work ontime, and with your safety record intact.

Michael V. Brown is the President of New Standard Institute, a training and consulting firm specializing in industrial maintenance, based in Milford, Connecticut (USA). A catalog of computer based training programs, books written by Mr. Brown and his colleagues, and a schedule of upcoming seminars can be viewed at Mr. Brown can be reached at (203) 783-1582; his email is Prior to moving to St. Paul in 2009, Ben Wurtmann was the Business Management Coordinator at New Standard Institute, Mr. Wurtmann received his masters degree from Yale University (MAR) in 2008.

Copyright © 2008 New Standard Institute, Inc.

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