The Break That Makes or Breaks: How To Improve Turnaround Safety

oil and gas refinery turnarounds

Let's dive into the world of turnarounds - those not-so-little interruptions that can have a significant impact on the smooth operation of petrochemical plants or oil and gas facilities. Let's explore what turnarounds are, why they matter, and the impact they have on safety.

What are Turnarounds?

A turnaround, in simple terms, is like pressing the pause button on a petrochemical plant or oil and gas refinery. It's a planned break in production that allows for essential maintenance, repairs, inspections, testing, and upgrades of equipment. It's petro-chemical industry's equivalent of taking your car to the mechanic for a thorough check-up and tune-up.

Why Do Turnarounds Matter?

Turnarounds can day a few days, a few months or even a few years depending of the age, size and condition of a petrochemical plant or oil and gas refinery. Turnarounds play a crucial role in ensuring the continued safe and efficient operation of petrochemical plants and refineries. By performing routine maintenance and addressing any potential issues before they become major problems, turnarounds help reduce the risk of accidents and equipment failures. This, in turn, promotes the overall safety of the workers and the surrounding environment.

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The Financial Side of Turnarounds

Now, let's talk money. It's no secret that turnarounds can be quite expensive for companies. Every minute that a plant or refinery is non-operational during a turnaround translates into a loss of potential revenue. Additional staff is required to handle the maintenance tasks, and the cost of labor, materials, and equipment can add up quickly. That's why it's crucial to carefully plan and execute turnarounds efficiently, minimizing downtime and maximizing productivity.

The Impact Of turnarounds on Operations and Employees

During a turnaround, the day-to-day operations of a petrochemical plant or refinery are significantly affected. Employees often find themselves involved in a flurry of activities, from assisting with maintenance tasks to coordinating schedules and ensuring everything runs smoothly. The temporary disruption in routine can be both challenging and exciting for the workforce. It provides an opportunity to develop new skills, collaborate with colleagues from different departments, and foster a sense of teamwork. Moreover, a successful turnaround can increase worker safety, efficiency and productivity.

Turnaround Safety

In any industrial setting, safety is paramount, and turnarounds are no exception. The time required for a turnaround – and to resolve any issues resulting from inspections conducted during a turnaround – make most turnarounds fast-paced and often, high pressure. These conditions, combined with a few turnaround-specific safety risks, can make maintaining a safe environment a challenge, as turnaround safety risks often include:

New And Temporary Workers

Turnarounds are big, complex jobs that often need to be completed in a tight window of time, and the workforce of a plant or refinery may balloon to accommodate the extra work. These new workers may not always be familiar with the hazards of the work areas within a facility, or the safety rules of the company.

NEW PROCESSES AND NON-ROUTINE WORK

Major turnarounds typically occur every few years, which means your workforce may be inexperienced or rusty regarding best safety practices and effective planning for specific non-routine work. In addition, as updates are made to equipment, employees have to become familiar with new processes, control panels, and more. 

Long Working hours

Due to the desire to get the plant or refinery operational again as soon as possible, work shifts may be longer and more frequent for each worker. Fatigue can contribute to accidents, make it difficult to follow along during training, and increase the potential for something to be 'missed' during an inspection.

How To Increase Worker safety During A Turnaround

Maintain Open Communication

Maintaining consistent communication with full-time workers and the large influx of temporary workers, including clear communication of safety standards and expectations, can help prevent workplace accidents. Pairing new workers with experienced workers, for example, is an excellent way to show them the ropes and help make the communication process more effective.

PROVIDE TRAINING OR REFRESHER COURSES

You already ensure that your existing full-time employees are trained and familiar with the hazards and best practices of your plant or refinery. Providing your temporary workers with the same level of care and consideration for the work they will be doing, such as site orientations, PPE and equipment training, and safety expectations, can also help prevent workplace accidents.

PROVIDE Personal protective equipment (PPE)

The nature of turnarounds means that workforces can grow by hundreds or maybe thousands of workers for jobs, including jobs that are not routinely performed, that may only last for a few weeks. As a result, many plants and facilities may not have enough supply of the proper PPE, including eye protection, hand protection, respiratory protection, spill control and containment products, and protective workwear available to accommodate these workers. Consider planning ahead to have adequate supplies of the right PPE on site and ready to use at the start of your turnaround.

Conclusion

Turnarounds play a pivotal role in the functioning of petrochemical plants and oil and gas refineries. These planned breaks allow for critical maintenance, inspections, and repairs, ensuring the safety and efficiency of these facilities. As we've seen, though they can be costly and disruptive, turnarounds present an opportunity for growth, enhanced collaboration, and improved safety standards.


 

RELY ON The PetroChemical experts

Petro-Marine, a division of A&M Industrial, is a leading supplier of of tank gauging, sampling,  temperature measurement equipment and PPE to the Petrochemical Industry. Petro-Marine also provides convenient services including respirator fit testing, repair and calibration of Thermoprobes, and certification of tapes and bobs, all performed on-site their Avenel, NJ location. Contact us for more information or to schedule a service today.