chemical plant turnaround safety

Chemical plant turnaround is a regular plant facilities maintenance where many kinds of works are done within a predetermined time frame and involves many workers with various skills and experience levels.

Besides that, various chemical exposures may reach their peak level during the turnaround.

It is because almost all equipment, which contains many kinds of hazardous chemicals, is opened for inspection, cleaning, or repair.

In addition, ignition sources will appear that may come from brazing, cutting, welding, and soldering.

Because of these conditions, it is right to say that plant turnaround is one of the dangerous conditions in the chemical plant life cycle.

Managing plant turnaround requires perfect planning, execution, and also control in order to reach the targets; quality, cost, schedule, and safety.

Here is why I mention if it is not properly managed, the following accident may happen during plant turnaround:

Remember the famous proverb about the importance of planning, “Fail to make a preparation is to plan for a failure”.

Putting your best effort into the planning stage is the best thing you should do.

Work Hazards in Plant Turnaround

Almost all kinds of work hazards exist in the plant turnaround.

Of course, it will depend on chemical plant type, chemical product, plant facility complexity, and size, as well as operation condition.

In general, you will find at least the following hazard categories during plant turnaround:

  • chemical hazard
  • physical hazard
  • ergonomic hazard
  • psychological hazard
  • safety hazard

An obvious way to make sure whether the above hazards exist or not is by conducting hazard identification and risk assessment.

Chemical Plant Turnaround Safety Tips

With such complex potential hazards and works, there is no way to conduct plant turnaround except by proper preparation, good control, and fast countermeasure to solve safety problems that arisen during the turnaround.

Follow the following practical safety tips to have a successful turnaround:

Tips #1 Prepare the best schedule

The schedule should be able to ensure that there will be no new potential danger created.

Make the schedule as simple as possible, which contains minimum workload.

If some works can be done during normal operation, it will much better.

Tips #2 Carry out hazard identification and risk assessment

In advance, after the schedule is fixed, each work item shall pass through the hazard identification process as well as risk assessment.

Don’t forget to make its Job Safety Analysis too.

Tips #3 Inspect all safety equipment and PPE

You must ensure that all required safety equipment and PPE (personal protective equipment) are ready to use.

Inspect and test each piece of equipment to ensure it works.

Don’t forget to provide each piece of safety equipment and PPE in adequate quantity.

Tips #4 Inspect all working tools

Working tools like a mobile ladder, scaffolding, welding machine, exhaust fan, grinding machine, etc must be inspected before use.

Tips #5 Re-educate all workers about safety

Plant turnaround is conducted regularly. But every once per year or more.

So, it is very important to re-educate all the workers about turnaround safety.

Tips #6 Make sure SOP are upto date

All SOP related to turnaround work is up to date and available at the point of use.

Re-educate all those SOPs if necessary.

Tips #7 Carry out plant shut down completely

This is one of the most critical items. It shall be done completely by following the procedure.

In general, shut down includes cooling down the high-temperature reactor, pressure release, liquid level decreasing, and so on.

Tips #8 Carry out safety operation after plant shut down

Safety operation is the next operation after shut down. It removes almost all potential hazards that cannot be removed by plant shut down.

Such operations like inert gas substitution or purging, pressure release to the atmosphere, emptying tower or tank, liquid transfer, cooling down to ambient temperature, water flushing or washing, are some examples of safety operation.

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Tips #9 De-energize equipment and LOTO

De-energized equipment that will be preventive maintenance. After that do Lock-Out Tag-Out to secure them from an unintended operation.

Tips #10 Set up turnaround organization

Like any kind of project, turnaround must have a definitive organization, who will manage it from preparation to the closing stage.

The turnaround Manager and Supervisors are the key persons.

Tips #11 Provide several communication methods

Smooth communication is the key to a successful plant turnaround.

Provide not only one communication channel. But, provide many channels to allow workers to get easy access to important information.

You can use safety slogans, safety talks, 5-minutes safety video, phone, handy talky, safety banner, briefing, an announcement by paging system, and emergency hotline.

Tips #12 Prepare for an emergency

Notify the fire department about the turnaround schedule to get easy help when an emergency occurs.

Stand by rescue team complete with their equipment including an ambulance.

Tips #13 Assign only qualified workers

Never assign untrained workers to involve in the turnaround. It is very dangerous. Only assign skillful and trained workers.

Tips #14 Check contractor preparation

Contractors who will involve in the turnaround need to be checked their preparedness; workers, tools, and equipment.

Make them familiar with the plant site condition and the emergency procedure.

Tips #15 Don’t approve additional work without risk assessment

Sometimes, there will be new findings during the turnaround. The maintenance team may propose additional repair or replacement items.

Be selective and do a risk assessment before giving any approval. Consider deeply since it may contain intolerable risk.

Tips #16 Inspect heavy equipment

Put special attention on heavy equipment that will be used as lifting equipment.

Inspect directly to the vendor site to ensure their conditions.

Tips #17 Secure hazardous material stock

Move hazardous material from the production field to a safer area during the turnaround, mainly flammable materials.

If it is impossible to move them away, make adequate control and protection.

Tips #18 Reduce work items

The number of work items in the turnaround is one of the major factors for safety. So, review the schedule deeply to find out the possibility to reduce work items.

If possible, do some of those works during normal operation.

Tips #19 List up hot work and confined space work items

Extract from the schedule all the hot works in order to put extra precautions for fire and explosion.

Confined space work also needs special attention too since it is a very dangerous work location.

Tips #20 Evaluate day to day progress

Perhaps, some works can be finished on schedule. But, others cannot. This will change the potential hazards as well.

So, day-to-day progress evaluation is very important to decide which work can be done at the same location and which ones cannot.

Recommended Book About Chemical Plant Turnaround Safety

It is recommended that you learn in more detail about chemical plant turnaround safety management to improve your knowledge about this important topic.

I suggest you read a book from Dr. Trinath Sahoo, “Process Plants: Shut Down and Turnaround Management“.

The book consists of 406 pages and is available in kindle edition.

What you will get from this book are:

  • types of plant shut down and maintenance, including turnaround
  • phases in turnaround
  • how to make turnaround planning, schedule, estimation, contractor management, safety management, human resources management, and cost control.
  • strategies to lengthen interval between turnaround and cost down

To view the book, you can visit this link.


Chemical plant turnaround safety is one of the most important aspects of turnaround. Perfect preparation and limitation of the work items are the keys to turnaround safety.