Most new process engineers working in design consultancy are unaware of the safety rules that need to be strictly adhered when making a field visit to a chemical process unit whether it be an upstream oil and gas processing installation, a refinery or a petrochemical plant. Today's blog entry tries to expalin some basic safety rules for a site visit. I am listing these pointwise and readers of my blog can suggest additional points to be taken care during the field visit.
1. As far as possible carry your own personal protective equipment (PPE). Do not expect that you wil be provided PPE at the site. Carrying your own PPE has implications of both fitment as well as personal hygeine. It may not be possible for the client to arrange coveralls of your size and you may not feel comfortable wearing used coveralls by somebody. I would definitely not like to use a common pool hard hat or safety goggles if I am concerned about infections to my scalp or eyes.
2. Before the field visit find out if there are some mandatory safety training requirements on safety and attend them. As an example, many upstream oil and gas companies make it mandatory that prior to the field visit, a one or two-day course on oil-field safety and Hydrogen Sulfide Safety and exposure protection has to be taken up and a certificate of completion be obtained.
3. When entering the premises of the chemical process unit for the first time ensure that the plant operations staff accompanies you and guides you. Ask questions about the layout of the plant and any special safety precautions that need to be considered. It would be dangerous and foolhardy if you enter an area of operations without any awareness of what all is around you.
4. Lookout for sign boards and specifically safety sign boards when walking around the plant or unit.
5. When walking on elevated platforms ensure that you are looking all around to see where your feet are landing and your head is not bumping against a beam or piping. There may be open grates or hatches for maintenance work and if your are not careful it could lead to a falling accident.
6. DO NOT touch valves or instruments if you are not authorized for that. Burns can happen if you touch bare pipe or valve wheels not knowing the fluid content in the pipe. Even solar radiation on a bare pipe can cause the surface temperature to be high enought to cause 1st degree burns and blisters.
7. If you are required to take field readings from field instruments ensure that you have proper foothold and can walk-around the instrument without obstruction. In case you are not sure, take the help of the operations personnel to collect the required field data. When climbing monkey ladders do it very carefully and slowly.
8. If you are aware beforehand that you will be working in the open sun for quite some time, make sure that you have taken plenty of fluids before walking around. Dehydration can cause dizziness and lack of focus which could lead to an accident. If you are unwell, it is not advisable to undertake a field visit.
9. DO NOt remove your PPE just because you are feeling sweaty and itchy while working in hot and humid conditions in the plant area where PPE is mandatory. If required, take a break in a safe place where you can remove your PPE to recompose yourself before going back to work.
10. While sitting in the control room do not chane any setpoints of the process control instruments unless you are both authorized and know the consequences of your actions in terms of the effect on the process.
11. Before entering the plant premises make sure that you are briefed about the emergency exits and gathering points by the operations staff of the plant. Pay utmost attention to what is being told to you.
12. Needless to tell that it is not allowed to smoke and eat in the plant premises except for areas designated for smoking and having food / beverages.
There could be many other points for a safe field visit and I invite readers of my blog to contribute some more points for a safe and successfuld field visit.