Database creates a safer confined-space program
Hopewell Cogeneration Facility
GDF Suez Energy North America
365-MW, gas-fired, 3 × 1 combined-cycle cogeneration facility located in Hopewell, Va
Plant manager: Bob Greene
Key project participants: Chuck Barnes, plant engineer Jeff Villines, Chris Fegley, Ken Blalock, Enrique Toro, David Taylor, Jeff Husie, Evan McCoy, Andrew Kirby, Rudy Ashley, and Jamie Dalton, plant operators
Confined spaces are some of the most dangerous places in which to work. Since they are not a normally manned space, they have many more hazards than the typical work area. When working in these spaces the idea is to reduce the risk as much as possible.
There will always be some safety risk, but the more hazards that can be reduced, the better chance that someone will not get hurt. Risk mitigation priorities include making sure the paperwork matches the space, conducting an in-depth assessment, and storing the information for quick access.
The plant believes the risk will be significantly reduced by being sure of the space being entered, having the paperwork written and checked in advance, having calculations worked out in advance, and by being sure that in the event of an accident there is a plan that has already been worked out.
The plant has implemented ideas to reduce safety risk within confined spaces. Using Microsoft Access® to build a database with all confined spaces, each area was evaluated for existing hazards before entry and once inside the space (Fig 54). One problem that comes up is that plant personnel and contractors do not call a space by the same name. To eliminate this, the database has pictures of the confined space so that the workers know for sure what space they are going into (Fig 55).
When a picture or block with the name in it is clicked it will bring up all the paperwork needed in accordance with OSHA regulations, including hot-work permits. The paperwork is set up in Microsoft Excel® with links so that once the first page is filled in as to supervisor, date, work order number, LOTO number, and confined space number all the other sheets are filled in as well. The paperwork includes instructions for a confined space rescue (Fig 56).
The plant had the rescue squad survey the plant and all of its confined spaces. The survey revealed the need to weld some pad-eyes and to acquire a special harness. The plant purchased the harnesses, links, and lines for plant personnel and the rescue team, so all parties would be adequately equipped.
Tanks brought onsite for temporary storage can be evaluated and placed into the database for future use. For spaces that are used for fuel, there are specific rules for ventilation. All of these spaces have been calculated in advance to be sure of compliance (Fig 57). For other spaces that may need ventilation subroutines have been setup so that one can look a space up, or use the program to get the ventilation flow. To protect from overheating there is a section for “dilution ventilation.”
In case something does happen; emergency phone numbers are in placed in several areas in the control room. For extra safety, they are also listed in the database (Fig 58).
It takes about 20-30 minutes to do a proper job on writing up a confined space from scratch. During our last maintenance outage, the first day saw 42 confined spaces written up. Uploading the report to the database takes less than two minutes each and can be input by the night shift and ready for the following morning.By conducting rescue surveys and having calculations completed in advance, both plant personnel and the rescue personnel feel more confident and better prepared. It is programs like this that have taken the plant to more than 6000 days without a lost-time accident.