Plant Shutdown Safety Procedures

plant shutdown

Routine plant shutdowns are great for a lot of different housekeeping projects like preventative maintenance, changeovers, upgrades, or any other time-consuming tasks that aren’t part of your daily operating schedule. 

Outside your daily routine, however, you may find some hazards you aren’t used to. Make sure you do everything in your power to get your workers ready for situations and dangers outside of their routines! Preparing for a plant shutdown and the maintenance projects that come along with it ahead of time will not only keep projects on track, but also prevent serious injuries to your workers. 

Shutdown events are often scheduled months, or even years, in advance and the list of things to get done during the shutdown can be long. Reviewing all safety hazards, and incorporating safeguards into plans and procedures for each task that needs to be completed while the plant is down will ensure the safety of all involved. 

As plans are being made for a productive plant shutdown, keep these common risks in mind. 

Common Shutdown Safety Hazards

Cleaning, housekeeping, painting, and other projects can force employees to work on ladders, scaffolds, or other elevated platforms that they aren’t used to. If they aren’t used to working up high, they’ll need adequate training and instructions before they begin working. A qualified person should evaluate all job assignments that will require employees to work up high. 

Shutdowns are a common time for cleaning or maintaining those hard-to-reach areas of your facility. You should be completely familiar with OSHA’s definition of a “confined space.” If the space in question is big enough for a worker to enter, but isn’t intended for continuous occupancy and has limited means of entry, it could be considered a confined space. If the space has insufficient oxygen or an inhalation hazard, a permit is required before a worker can enter to do any kind of cleaning or maintenance. Make sure you conduct the right training before work begins!

Using extension cords as a permanent source of energy is one of the more frequently cited OSHA violations, but shutdowns are a great time to provide more permanent electrical wiring solutions. While a certified electrician will know all of the hazards present in these situations, other workers might not. Make sure you know all the possible risks, and implement the right training before any work begins. 

Draining pipelines creates the perfect opportunity to replace worn sections of the piping, couplers, pumps, and fittings—but drained pipes can still contain vapors or residual liquids. Unless you can verify that the lines have been 100% emptied, harmful characteristics of the liquids or gases that were in there before could pose serious risks. Make sure you know exactly what the pipelines contained before they were drained, and know whether or not you need a permit to work on them. 

Communication is Key

Your facility needs to have a clear list of projects that need to be accomplished during any shutdown, and each task should have a clear objective and an accompanying plan. List all of the specific procedures that need to be followed. Make sure all plans are discussed with supervisors, managers, and all workers involved. The timelines for all projects and procedures should be realistic, and the proper tools and equipment should be available—planning in advance is absolutely crucial. This is the only way to ensure that any specialized training or special equipment necessary for the project is available before work begins. With all of these things in mind, you can utilize plant shutdowns to improve processes and get everything done. 

Interested in learning more? Call ProcessBarron today to ensure maximum efficiency for your plant!