Whether we like it or not, plant turnarounds are inevitable for many industries. A scheduled pause of a plant’s operation allows for essential maintenance, replacing or repairing equipment, upgrading resources, and even maintaining regulatory compliance.
While it’s important to take time to pause and address old assets or failed processes, it can take some time to get your operation back to full production. In fact, a turnaround is a massive undertaking for most organizations, not only due to financial pressures, but because these pauses in production tend to bring out unexpected questions and logistical concerns that need to be addressed.
When it comes to turnaround safety, a safety consultant can be a key part of your team and an essential tool in streamlining the shutdown process. Safety consultants can help plan the turnaround, identify hazards, evaluate your organization’s existing safety program, and provide recommendations for improvements to ensure the turnaround is conducted safely, efficiently, and within compliance.
Let’s take a closer look at how safety consultants can assist with a turnaround, and the key safety concerns to evaluate when implementing a temporary plant shutdown.
How a Safety Consultant Can Help with Turnaround Safety
Safety consultants are well versed in all aspects of workplace safety, from on-site training to OSHA compliance. Since turnarounds are about taking the time to improve the safety and production of your plant, these consultants are your best resources for a quick and well executed shutdown.
Planning and Preparation
A safety consultant can start helping with your plant turnaround from the very first stage. Even if there are some repairs or replacements you plan to address during your shutdown, consultants can conduct thorough safety assessments of your organization and identify other potential hazards before the turnaround begins. This ensures every potential safety concern is addressed during your turnaround, allowing you to avoid delays or a repeat shutdown in a few more years.
As part of your turnaround plan, a safety consultant will develop a comprehensive safety plan to address all identified hazards. By preparing for your turnaround with an in-depth plan, you can limit the amount of time your plant is closed and meet industry standards quickly.
Training and Education
Safety consultants are able to provide on-site training for employees for any certification they may be missing, so a plant turnaround is a great opportunity to ensure all workers are up-to-date on certifications and licensing.
Beyond that, consultants can educate employees on the turnaround process and ensure everyone is trained for the job at hand. This can mean organizing teams to replace or repair equipment, explain the hazards being addressed, or ensure those working in open parts of the plant can do so safely.
Implementation of Safety Measures
Factory turnarounds aren’t only meant to address equipment failures or tangible hazards. A safety consultant may find concerns in your processes, and making those changes during shutdown will not only expedite the process but ensure your swift return to OSHA compliance.
Emergency response plans and incident investigation protocols are essential in any industry. If yours is lacking, a safety consultant can implement any missing piece. Additionally, they can monitor and evaluate the safety performance of the turnaround process itself and make recommendations for improvement.
OSHA standards are constantly changing, but a planned turnaround is not a valid excuse for non-compliance. By starting with an overall safety evaluation, a safety consultant can find concerns that may lead to OSHA non-compliance and incorporate a change in your turnaround safety plan.
Documenting anything found in a safety audit and addressing it through a written corrective action plan also leaves a paper trail for OSHA that shows safety is a priority and known issues are being addressed. In this way, even if your turnaround is taking some time, OSHA representatives will appreciate that a plan of action is already in place.
The worst part of a full or partial plan turnaround is the pause in production. There’s no denying that temporarily shutting down your plant will result in some financial hardship, and every day closed is more money lost.
While safety will always be their top priority, safety consultants understand how important it is to have a speedy turnaround and will do everything possible to make the process smooth and efficient. Through years of experience working across a variety of industries, consultants can adjust safety plans on the spot and address any specific or unexpected concerns. This allows the project to continue running smoothly and keep you on schedule for reopening.
Any effective safety consultant will minimize downtime, ensure safety, and streamline your plant turnaround process. And without the help of a consultant, you’ll likely run into some common turnaround safety challenges.
What are Common Safety Challenges During Turnarounds?
While most plant turnarounds start with a detailed plan of action, there are several unique factors and safety risks that these shutdowns present.
New Contractors Suddenly On-Site
Addressing machining repairs, equipment upgrades, and on-site facilities means an influx of new contractors and crews who are unfamiliar with your site’s layout. New workers can be faced with equipment they’ve never encountered before, processes out of their expertise, and full-time contractors they don’t have experience working with.
The sheer number of new bodies on site, plus the typical amount of machinery found in plants, innately increases the likelihood of accidents. Without a safety consultant present to monitor this group of new workers, it can be difficult to keep track and maintain everyone’s safety.
Different Safety Cultures Between Contractors
Contractors coming from different backgrounds can have different safety policies, procedures, training, and culture that they are most accustomed to. Conflicts can arise when different mentalities collide, especially when unfamiliar teams must work collaboratively on the same project. Luckily, safety consultants are trained in conflict resolution and can be an on-the-spot mediator if needed.
New Machinery and Equipment
Any time new machinery is brought in, hazards pop up. Some of the most common accidents, including struck-by or in-between, electrocution, and collisions are more likely to occur when there are so many moving pieces. Not only does this put your workers and contractors at risk, but also increases the potential of receiving an OSHA violation for improperly trained workers or unsafe conditions.
Movement of Hazardous Materials
Depending on your industry and which aspects of your plant are being evaluated, you may be in a position where hazardous materials need to be moved. Leaving these materials in areas where other workers aren’t expecting them can put worker safety at risk. Often, proper PPE and remediation are needed to ensure these hazardous materials are being transported and temporarily stored with care.
Plant turnarounds can be very stressful and demanding for everyone involved. There is an expectation to work quickly, precisely, and continuously to get production back online, and workers can suffer from turnaround fatigue. This can result in neglect of safety requirements, lack of awareness around dangerous equipment, and general unsafe work practices. A safety consultant can manage your staff, looking out for signs of over-exhaustion and ensuring long-term projects are tackled in shifts.
Related Content: How to Avoid 5 Mistakes During Your Shutdown or Turnaround
Plant turnarounds are a necessary nuisance that helps keep your organization safe and running efficiently. Safety consultants can reduce the stress and downtime surrounding your turnaround by evaluating hazards, developing a pre-turnaround plan, and monitoring the execution until your organization is back up and running.
Don’t let your upcoming turnaround take away more time, money, and energy than necessary. Reach out today to find out how a safety consultant can make your plant turnaround a whole lot easier.