The Top Hazards During a Turnaround and How to Help Increase Safety

The Top Hazards During a Turnaround and How to Help Increase Safety

Turnarounds at industrial facilities—whether oil and gas refineries, chemical plants or power facilities—are necessary events that require significant planning and are essential to keeping all equipment performing at its best. These preventive maintenance times, usually occurring in the spring or fall when the weather is mildest, can last weeks or even months.

A turnaround is far from a normal day on the job. It is a complex event that can encompass up to 150,000 different activities.1 There are several key factors that can raise the level of risk at the plant during a turnaround, including:  

More people

Additional workers come in during a turnaround, including contractors, agency workers and temporary workers. This can add thousands of extra people to a worksite, even doubling or tripling the workforce in some cases.2 More people, especially those who don’t normally work at the plant, means elevated risk. It is critical for all of these workers to have proper personal protective equipment (PPE), gas detection and safety training.  

More machinery

To clean, repair and eventually reinstate the machinery at the plant, additional equipment and vehicles must be brought in during a turnaround. This could include cutting and welding equipment as well as equipment to power wash machinery and soften deposits. Some of these turnaround activities cause increased exposure to gasses. With more vehicles on site, the collision risk increases as well.  

More places

Executing a turnaround means that people are entering parts of the plant that are not built for humans, whether to make repairs or install new equipment. Workers must enter confined spaces, including shafts, manholes, tunnels and tanks, which increases their potential exposure to toxic gas build-up or risk of oxygen deficiency. In a confined space, they also can experience restricted movement, reduced lighting and communications and rescue challenges.    

More noise

The additional machinery and vehicles coming into the plant during a turnaround inevitably creates more noise. A study on hearing loss prevalence by industry published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that roughly 61% of all workers in oil and gas extraction and mining occupations have been exposed to hazardous worksite noise, and 14% of noise-exposed workers develop hearing loss.3 Protecting workers from hazardous noise levels is essential to their safety.

Greater temperatures

A turnaround often demands “hot work” projects, defined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as welding, cutting, brazing, soldering and grinding, which can lead to accidental ignition of flammable or combustible materials; flammable gases can also leak into the work environment from hot work equipment.

No power

During a turnaround, the power is often turned off for periods of time, which creates higher-risk conditions. A 2019 study by Accenture (TA Cook) and Solomon Associates found that nearly half of manufacturing plants’ work-related accidents happen during maintenance outages.4

During maintenance activities, workers may need to set up temporary power or lighting solutions, which can pose risks when vapors and gasses are in the air. These solutions must therefore meet rigorous regulatory and safety standards to limit risk.5

Risk mitigation

Despite these risks, there are a number of ways to help keep workers safe and assets protected from all of the increased activity during a turnaround. In addition to careful planning and safety training, gas detection is an essential component to a safe turnaround. 

Certain portable gas detectors, such as the UltraRAE 3000 + and MultiRAE, protect workers from benzene exposure, a chemical that is a natural part of crude oil and gasoline and is commonly used in production and processing of fuels. Benzene is both a colorless and flammable human carcinogen. The large display and long battery runtime of these devices make them optimal for use during a turnaround. Other portables are ideal for confined spaces, such as the BW™ Ultra, which enables users to clear a confined space for entry and continual monitoring while workers are inside. It simultaneously detects gases required for monitoring confined spaces such as oxygen, hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide. These are just a few of the many different types of gas and flame detection solutions that can provide valuable, real-time information and protection during a turnaround to keep process running smoothly and help reduce risk.

Worker PPE is another vital component to turnaround safety, from hearing protection to limit noise exposure to eye, respiratory and hand protection to help safeguard workers from cuts, flying debris and hazards in the air. 

Learn more

To learn more about how Honeywell helps protect workers in high-risk situations, visit our website.

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