Shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages (STOs) are planned events that involve the temporary shutdown of an oil and gas facility, such as a refinery or chemical plant. These events are necessary for maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and inspections to ensure the facility operates safely, efficiently, and effectively. However, STOs also present several hazards and dangers that can pose risks to the workers, the environment, and the surrounding community.
The oil and gas industry deals with flammable and explosive materials, such as oil, gas, and chemicals. During STOs, the risk of fires and explosions increases due to the potential for leaks, equipment failure, or human error. Hot work activities such as welding, cutting, and grinding are common during STOs. These activities can generate sparks or heat that can ignite flammable materials, leading to fire or explosion. During STOs, ventilation systems may be shut down, resulting in a build-up of flammable gases or vapours. If these gases or vapours are not properly controlled, they can ignite and cause a fire or explosion.
The oil and gas industry uses a variety of chemicals, such as acids, solvents, and caustics. During STOs, workers may be exposed to these chemicals, posing risks of chemical burns, respiratory problems, and other health issues. Asbestos was commonly used in insulation and other building materials, and many older facilities still contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Workers may be exposed to asbestos fibres when these materials are disturbed during maintenance or repair work, which can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other serious respiratory diseases. To minimize the risk of chemical exposure during shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages, it's essential to have a comprehensive safety plan that includes training for workers, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and proper handling and storage of chemicals.
Many of the tasks involved in STOs require workers to enter confined spaces, such as tanks, vessels, and pipelines. These spaces can pose risks of suffocation, asphyxiation, and explosions due to the accumulation of flammable or toxic gases.
Many of these maintenance activities occur in confined spaces, posing various risks to workers' health and safety. Here are some of the confined space risks during STOs:
To minimize these risks, STO organizers must develop and implement a confined space entry program that includes thorough risk assessments, proper worker training, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety devices. It is also important to have proper communication and emergency response procedures to ensure workers' safety entering confined spaces.
STOs often require heavy equipment, such as cranes, lifts, and trucks. Workers may be at risk of injury from these machines, particularly if they are not properly trained or supervised. Some heavy equipment risks during STOs include:
The oil and gas industry uses high-pressure equipment like pipelines, valves, and pumps. During STOs, workers may need to work on this equipment, which can pose risks of injury from high-pressure releases or explosions. Some of the high-pressure equipment risks during STOs include:
To minimize the hazards and dangers during STOs in the oil and gas industry, companies must implement comprehensive safety programs, including training, risk assessments, safety procedures, and equipment inspections. Workers must be properly trained and equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them from hazards such as chemical exposure, high-pressure equipment, and confined spaces. Regular safety audits and inspections must also be conducted to identify and mitigate potential hazards and dangers.
Our recommended multi-gas detectors, some of which can be used for confined space pre-entry, personal protection, or area monitoring. For confined space pre-entry checks, it is recommended that a pumped monitor is used. Using a pumped monitor allows a sampling tube to be fed into the confined space from the outside, confirming workers are safe to enter.
Our recommended personal protection equipment for workers or contractors involved in STOs. With the possibility of many hazardous gases or chemicals it's important workers are provided with a sufficient level of personal protection.
Confined Spaces - How To Make Sure You're Working Safely - Part 1
Confined Spaces - How To Make Sure You're Working Safely - Part 2
MiniRAE Lite & MiniRAE 3000+ PID Detectors - What are the Differences?