Safety best practices: A can’t miss topic at user-group meetings

501F logoF-class users have been the lifeblood of CCJ’s Best Practices Awards program since its inception more than a decade ago. Their safety best practices have been particularly noteworthy. To illustrate: The following submittals by plants powered by 501F gas turbines were published in CCJ and CCJ ONsite just prior to the 2016 501F Users Group meeting at San Antonio’s La Cantera Hill Country Resort, February 21-24:

      • Klamath Cogeneration Plant’s dedicated emergency phone line direct to the control room is far more effective, and much less expensive, than two-way radios for communicating issues requiring immediate attention—especially during outages, given the widespread availability of cell phones among plant and contractor personnel. Noteworthy is that Klamath Plant Manager Ray Martens, who spearheaded this improvement before retiring early in 2016, was a vice chairman of the 501F group and the moderator of the organization’s safety sessions at annual meetings.

      • Trip hazards caused by dislocation of trench-box covers in Monroe Power LLC’s switchyard motivated an effective redesign and upgrade of the yard’s trench boxes by plant personnel.

      • Electrical safety at AMP Fremont Energy Center was improved by creating a set of MCC and panelboard drawings that more clearly identified what auxiliary loads were fed from which line-ups, specified in which cubicle each load’s breaker or starter was located, and presented all of this information in an easily understandable and readable format. Benefits include reduction in both potential errors and the time required to find electrical feeds, faster LOTO (lock out/tag out) execution, easier identification of loads on redundant MCCs, etc.

      • Redesign of a bolt-on exhaust-stack access hatch, and its replacement with a pivoting steel door that does not require removal or lifting by personnel, have reduced dramatically personnel injury risk and the time required to enter the stack.

The robust, interactive safety session at the 2016 501F conference added to the group’s best practices experience. Some of what you read below may seem like “old school.” If so, that’s probably because of your industry experience. Important to keep in mind: Nominally half of the user attendees at the San Antonio meeting (by show of hands) were first-timers. For many of them, most of following ideas were new.

The session began with attendees sharing unsafe experiences that could have been avoided, including the following:

      • Scaffolding knocked out of position by a bump during cleanup created a serious hazard.

      • Person from another site opened the compartment door without permission, got knocked down (air pressure was a contributing factor), and was seriously injured.

      • LOTO signage was removed by a contractor involved in a valve test and not replaced. The violation was noticed by a plant employee and the job was shut down to re-educate the contractor’s personnel. The company’s president expressed regret in a letter and vowed the infraction would never happen again.

      • In a filter house, the grating between levels was removed to pass through replacement filters. It was never replaced and a worker fell to the next level.

      • Contractor was moving material with the small hook of the turbine-hall crane but did not raise the main hook to a safe height. No personnel were injured, but a truck was damaged and a light was knocked out.

      • A user reported a rash of bumps by forklift operators who backed up into just about everything over the previous 18 months or so. Another attendee said his plant had a similar experience and that almost all accidents were backing ones. Discussion ensued with a couple of plants saying they have a spotter policy (shotgun person is on the ground, not sitting on the forklift). However, even with spotters some accidents occurred. Flags were said to help, but even they were not foolproof.

Discussion continued, but migrated away from safety infractions to a wider range of topics. Here are some of the points that were made:

      • A give-and-take on how to eliminate (“mitigate” might be a better word) safety hazards offered these suggestions: conduct more safety walk-downs, give bonuses to people for reporting hazards, encourage submittal of safety improvements, continually remind employees and contractors to focus, focus, focus on what they’re doing.

      • Reinforce the notion that “safety over all,” environment second, everything else further down the list.

      • A point was made that almost all accidents have a human-error component at some point in time. For example, bumping scaffolding with a forklift might take weeks for a collapse to occur. Use of steel fittings in copper pipe, and vice versa, may take 10 years to let go, but eventually the connection fails.

      • An interesting stat based on plant experience: More employees miss work from injuries at home than at work. Some plants conduct interactive sessions on home safety because of this.

      • Proper fit-up of safety gear is important. One size doesn’t necessarily fit all. Example: Eye injuries can occur from dust blowing under safety glasses. A demonstration revealed one person could put his finger between his face and the frame of his glasses while another had trouble putting a piece of paper between them.

      • A contributor to the discussion suggested his colleagues consider man-down radios for roving operators and personnel on duty in the evenings. These devices activate if not moved for a period of time. An alternative is to require periodic check-ins—perhaps hourly.

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