Five ways to conduct a safe and proper plant shutdown

Safety is no laughing matter, and even more so when going through a plant shutdown

Five ways to conduct a safe and proper plant shutdown

Plant shutdowns, also known as turnarounds, are among the most crucial times in the operation of a plant. They have the potential to affect the overall financial performance of plants. And while in the process, employees' safety may be at risk. As such employers going through this part of the business must ensure that the entire process is done right.

However, this task is never easy. There are a lot of things to consider so employers must take a careful approach. Here are some ways to ensure that plant shutdowns go through as planned.

1. Plan and assess risks

Because plant turnarounds are so crucial, they cannot be done with haste. Employers must plan ahead of time. In an opinion piece for COS, Eldeen Poznia, a registered Canadian safety professional, writes that plant owners must allow at least four months of planning prior to the shutdown.

During this process, the shutdown plan must be reviewed, and all safety concerns must be considered in all aspects of the plan. This goes from identifying the equipment and tools in the plant and listing the projects to be accomplished to the workers, to clearly indicating procedures. All safety risks must also be considered.

2. Communicate the plan

Plant shutdowns can be dangerous, especially if the people involved do not communicate, according to Craft Force. To be safe, employers should get all individuals involved in the process on the same page. This can be done by putting tags on equipment or giving everyone handheld radios through which they can communicate. Employers must also make it certain that communication is clear to avoid any potentially harmful misunderstandings, according to Craft Force.

3. Re-emphasize safety training for employees

Do this until you can be positive that you have got the message across. Safety is no laughing matter, even more so when going through a plant shutdown when things can be extremely dangerous. If employees working on a plant shutdown are well-informed on safety matters and know how to respond in case of an emergency, employers are better equipped on safeguarding issues.

4. Unplug equipment and lock it out

To ensure that equipment would not start to operate in the middle of a plant shutdown, equipment must be unplugged from the power source. This also covers releasing all possible sources of energy for machines, including springs and air surge tanks, among others.

And as a second-degree safety precaution, lock the keys to the equipment in a safety box inaccessible to all but one person. The person guarding the equipment must be the last one to have the key before storage.

5. Safely store equipment and chemicals

Moving equipment and chemicals is a big part of plant turnarounds. This can be dangerous for those moving the items and to everyone on the site. Have the necessary tools installed, and make sure that workers know how to use them properly. Employers must also identify where to place equipment and chemicals for safekeeping and put them there.