Shutdowns and turnarounds are a necessity for oil and gas refineries and petrochemical plants to conduct maintenance, repairs, refittings and inspections—executing tasks that can’t take place on a regular basis when facilities are open for regular operations. Unplanned outages can be even more disruptive and costly. These projects have a significant impact on the operational budget of a refinery and require an increase of labor, third parties to be on site and lost revenue from cessation of production. During these short-term projects, things need to move fast. But safety can’t be sacrificed. It needs to be a top priority and is a critical success measure.
Safety risks associated with shutdowns and turnarounds include:
- Increased number of confined space entries
- Longer hours for full-time employees
- Increased number of shifts
- Third-party contractors onsite who may be unfamiliar with the facility and the operation’s safety procedures
- Less experienced or untrained workers
Almost 50% of work-related accidents in plants occur during plant maintenance outages.
(TA Cook and Solomon Associates 2019)
During shutdowns, Operations Managers need their workers to focus on the tasks at hand. And workers need to be confident that risks are mitigated, and their safety monitored
Equipping each worker on site with a gas detector is vital. Toxic and combustible gases exist, and areas of oxygen deprivation can occur more frequently. Another typical hazard is slips, trips, and falls—OSHA cites this as the most frequent cause of accidents in the workplace. That risk increases during short-term oil and gas projects where workers are moving fast with tight time pressure. Deploying a versatile connected safety solution keeps everyone involved with the process safe and ensures that normal operations can resume as soon as possible.
There are four important things to consider when looking at the safety of your next shutdown or turnaround – simplicity, flexibility, budget and future improvements.
1. Accessibility and Simplicity
During a turnaround, on-site worker numbers can swell to increases of hundreds or even thousands of workers. This typically includes external skilled tradespeople brought in for specific tasks – and everyone’s safety needs to be assured. Toxic gases, combustibles and changing oxygen levels are a significant hazard so every worker needs to be protected with gas detection devices. However, since these projects typically only last from two to eight weeks, purchasing equipment isn’t always economically sound. Renting gas detectors can be a preferrable option for the following reasons:
K.I.S.S. – Renting easy-to-operate devices minimizes the need for training, meaning the devices will be more likely to be used – and used properly. With devices like Blackline’s personal gas detectors and EXO area monitors that connect directly to the cloud as soon as they are turned on, there’s no need for IT support, mesh network set-ups, additional infrastructure or the need to link devices to each other. This is ideal for contractors since pre-calibrated and bump tested gas detectors can be turned on and connected to the cloud with the push of a button
Get Connected, Stay Compliant – Compliance is key during this time so renting connected gas detectors helps safety managers track the status of devices and gain real-time visibility into the safety of workers.
2. Projects change. Timelines change. Safety doesn’t.
If there’s one predictable thing about shutdowns and turnarounds, it’s that they’re unpredictable. Flexible rental options, such as daily, weekly or monthly terms, mean you can expand or contract your gas detection inventory as the needs of the project change. And with Blackline’s rental program specifically, you have the option to cancel a rental without penalty, so you aren’t handcuffed by rigid contracts.
3. Save lives and costs at the same time.
One of the biggest factors when evaluating a shutdown or turnaround’s success is completing the project on time. With rented connected gas detectors, real-time data for all workers is at an operation manager’s fingertips. This gives the ability to see daily trends, such as areas with gas exposures indicating the need for additional repairs or maintenance. Getting in front of hazards before they become incidents that throw a wrench into the turnarounds schedule can help keep a project on track.
More than half of all turnarounds experience significant delays.
(TA Cook and Solomon Associates 2019)
Another significant factor in the cost of these projects is lost or forgotten devices. By renting connected gas monitors, you’ll always have full visibility into the location of each device, whether it’s during the project or after it’s completed when short-term workers can forget to return them.
4. Learn today for a more productive tomorrow.
An owner or operator’s minimal expectation from a turnaround is to have the facility returned to its original operating capacity. But these projects can also be an opportunity to identify to upgrade and improve systems and procedures.
Streamlining operations is crucial. Beyond the safety functionality of gas detectors, accessing the data from rented connected devices and analyzing their usage can have a significant impact on the efficiency of the next scheduled turnaround. With so many workers onsite, simple changes like relocating break areas or tool sheds can shave travel time for each worker every day, increasing their time-on-tool and in turn, shortening the overall timeline for the project. Even renting connected devices for a single job to do this type of evaluation and then implementing those productivity improvements can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for future projects.
With so many factors to consider in shutdowns and turnarounds, it is imperative to have a robust safety plan in place. Slips, trips, and falls, defective machinery, and gas accumulation are a few of the dangers that your team will have to prepare for during shutdowns and turnarounds. With the right connected safety solution, every possible scenario is accounted for, and contingencies are in place to resolve dangerous situations. Don’t waste any time; ensure worker safety is accounted for every step of the way during shutdowns and turnarounds. If you take the necessary precautions, your organization will be back to business—and minimizing lost profits—in no time.
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