The Must-Have Checklist for 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 skill and experience level.

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

It is because almost all equipment, which contain many kinds of hazardous chemicals, are 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 condition in the chemical plant life-cycle.

Managing plant turnaround requires a 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 in 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 properly preparation, good control and fast countermeasure to solve safety problem arisen during turnaround.

Follow the following practical 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 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 equipment to ensure it works.

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

Tips #4 Inspect all working tools

Working tools like mobile ladder, scaffoling, 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 with turnaround work are upto date and available at the point of use.

Re-educate all those SOP if necessary.

Tips #7 Carry out plant shut down completely

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

In general, shut down includes cooling down 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 remove almost all potential hazars that cannot be removed by plant shut down.

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

Tips #9 De-energize equipment and LOTO

De-energized equipment that will be preventive maintained. After that do Lock-Out Tag-Out to secure them from 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 closing stage.

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, announcement by pagging system and emergency hot line.

Tips #12 Prepare for an emergency

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

Stand by rescue team complete with their equipment including 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 needs 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 finding during the turnaround. Maintenance team may propose additional repair or replacement item.

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

Tips #16 Inspect heavy equipment

Put special attention to 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 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

Number of work items in turnaround is one of the major factors for the safety. So, review the schedule deeply to find out 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, other 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.

Further Reading

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

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

The book consists of 406 pages and 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 aspect of turnaround. Perfect preparation and limitation of the work items are the keys to turnaround safety.


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