Safety – New Covert Generating Company

Calculating risk factors to ensure personnel safety

New Covert Generating Facility
Owned by New Covert Generating Company LLC
Operated by NAES Corp 

Background.  The Teams Operating Plants Safely program (TOPS) at Wolf Hills Energy LLC was awarded the “Best of the Best” for Safety in 2005. Since then, the program has matured significantly and has taken root at New Covert Generating Facility. Employees completed over 500 observations in 2011 and identified many opportunities to decrease risk of safety incidents along the way. The program now includes a complex database with a built-in “Risk Factor Calculator.”

Challenge.  If not handled appropriately, powerplant work can be risky business. Accidents, injuries, equipment failure, and other significant events all impact the quality of life for employees, as well as the bottom line. The foundation of the TOPS program is that all accidents, injuries, and events can be prevented, and they will be, if the interweaving risk factors are collectively understood and then meticulously managed.

Solution.  The Risk Factor Calculator used in the TOPS program helps to expose the compounding factors of risk often hidden in conventional analysis. Conventional risk analysis frequently excludes various causal factors that add to risk. Operating together, these factors can lead to accidents, injuries, and major plant and system events. We are routinely challenged by risk in our daily work. Success can easily mask and desensitize exposure to risk. 

   The TOPS observation findings conclude that many jobs ordinarily considered successful may actually contain a significant amount of risky activity. Root cause analysis (RCA) has proven over and over that the enemy of success is often the achievement of success. The TOPS approach for maintaining a safe workplace is to identify potential problems and fix them before they become bigger consequential problems.

   The TOPS Risk Factor Calculator provides methodology and data for advanced insight to help illuminate risk factors, so they can be identified and more effectively managed. The job cycle timeline illustrated in Fig 11 provides a general snapshot of many of the observable job activities and conditions that influence risk.

Anatomy of TOPS program
(Scroll down for images.) 

The risk factor calculator and the scorecard.  The scorecard shown in Fig 12 is the TOPS data collection tool currently used at the plant to collect data about the jobs observed. The TOPS database screenshot shown in Fig 13 mirrors the scorecard with the addition of a built-in risk calculator.

   The form is simple in that the observer walks through the observation process while checking each appropriate box observed. At the end of the observation it is clear what the observer saw and equally important what he or she did not see.

   The form also provides additional space for special notes about the job observed which can be made searchable in the database. You may notice on the form that there is a check box for a “partial” observation. It should be noted that it is perfectly acceptable for an observer to complete a partial observation since a complete one is not always practical with the time constraints of day-to-day activities.

     How the scorecard works.  Each of the major performance categories—planning, personal protective equipment, execution, communication, tools and equipment, housekeeping, and scaffold and portable ladder safety—have a subset of observable activities and expected behaviors. The observer uses the scorecard and checks blocks in each appropriate column near the right center of the page to determine if the subset of behaviors is considered “safe,” a “concern,” or “not observed.”

   “Safe” means the activity observed is clearly recognized as an expected risk-management behavior. An activity classified as a “concern” would require, at a minimum, a closer review to determine if the activity effectively manages risk and supports the team’s mission of event-free operation. An activity classified as “not observed” is neutral to the observation and means what it implies. The subset of behaviors or conditions listed on the scorecard each point back to critical behaviors, if not present in the job cycle timeline may lead to or increase the probability of an accident, injury or system event.

    The risk calculator and database. Fig 13 shows a screenshot of the Risk Factor Calculator and database front end. The front end of the database mirrors the actual field version of the TOPS Scorecard used by technicians to collect data. An Excel spreadsheet is optional and can be used with portable handheld devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, or Android devices, and is near completion. An observation can then be easily uploaded to the database from the handheld device.

   Risk-concern values.  The observation-generated name (OGN) column lists the observable items or activities as shown on the scorecard (Fig 14). To the left of the OGN column is the risk-factor number (RFN) column. The RFN column provides an assigned value to an activity that ranges from 1 to 3. The number can be adjusted up or down to the user’s satisfaction. The value represents an agreed-upon exposure to risk. The database sums the total value of all combined OGN items observed and then multiplies them by the risk factors shown in Figs 15-19.

     Risk-conditions multiplier is weather-related. Ambient conditions, such as rain, snow, ice, heat and cold temperatures influence job risk (Fig 15).

     Risk-day multiplier.  Saturday and Sunday work, especially unplanned, is generally considered riskier because of limited resources. It can be argued that some types of work are actually safer to do on Saturday or Sunday if detailed planning is completed in advance to compensate for limited access to manpower and other resources. This database multiplier can be adjusted to the user’s preference (Fig 16).        
     The risk-hazard multiplier  is somewhat subjective but useful to heighten employee awareness to potential added job risk (Fig 17). For example, if an assigned job is sweeping a floor at ground level the risk might be considered “low,” since there is no apparent major risk added to complete the work. On the other hand, if the assigned job is replacing a pump and motor where lifting and rigging are required, the job risk might be considered “medium”. In contrast, if the assigned job involved tagging, switching and racking out breakers on a live bus the work might be considered “high”. The purpose of making the distinction is to ensure appropriate barriers are in place to effectively manage the risk.

  Risk-time multiplier RCA findings indicate there is some correlation to increased job risk related to the time of day work is performed (Fig 18). If a job is started on either of the two night shift periods, 3 a.m. to 11p.m. or 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shown, the risk factor generally should be considered higher. Added risk-factor considerations are lighting, resources, turnover requirements, and potential employee fatigue if the job is occurring on an overtime basis, for example.

  Risk-type multiplier.RCA findings routinely indicate that risk is added when performing new and/or unusual tasks (Fig 19). New tasks present training, procedure, and process-control challenges. Unusual tasks also present continuing-training and knowledge-based challenges. Employees must be adequately equipped to ensure the highest probability of success.

  The miscellaneous reports section  of the database is a powerful tool for analysis— particularly for tracking and trending (Fig 20). Other types of reports can be added as desired. All information collected can be sorted and manipulated to produce numerous types of reports.