LOTO feature for Process Heating

Injury countermeasure awareness needs to be raised

There is really no excuse for exposure to unguarded heating process equipment which endangers factory and plant workers. Barry Atkins, managing director of test and inspection experts PASS argues that not enough is being done to raise awareness about injuries and how they come about.

Industrial injuries happen all the time, but it would be unwise to shrug these off merely because they have not happened in one’s own plant before. Insurance companies certainly make it known that customers need to take risk assessments but may be scant on details of what exactly needs to be assessed.

Plant owners and managers need to understand that once an injury occurs, the process of denying an insurance claim and any consequent court action is purely reactive and based on the premise that the possibility of injury should have been foreseen. There is little proactive effort on the part of insurance companies other than their published guidelines and the publicity given to previous cases.

There are specific actions and procedures for controlling hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, including the practices and procedures necessary to disable machinery or equipment, thereby preventing the release of hazardous energy while workers perform maintenance activities.

Injuries may include electrocution, burns, crushing, cutting, lacerating, amputating, or fracturing body parts. For example, a steam generation facility produces and distributes steam at nine bar gauge to facilities for heating, humidity control, and processes, with access to valves, traps, and system components provided through a number of steam vaults or pits located at points along the distribution grid.

There is the possibility of an engulfment hazard for entrants who operate components such as valves on the pressurised steam system within the steam pit. The process by which a permit space is removed from service and completely protected against the release of energy and material into the space includes lockout or tagout of energy sources, probably the cheapest and quickest of available methods.

Continued verification of isolation is required if there is a possibility that hazardous energy may reaccumulate, which is greater when a single valve is used for control purposes, rather than a double block and bleed form of isolation Typically recognised a Best Practice.

An effective example of a lockout procedure is to fully isolate an energy source ahead of maintenance work, which would entail identifying the energy source, isolating it, and then locking and tagging it to prove the equipment is isolated. These locks should not be removed until the work is completed, and each engineer has signed off that work is completed.

There are many kinds of lockout devices available on the market, each of which is suitable for a different application. Compliant devices include lockout hasps, cable lockouts, valve lockouts, gas cylinder lockouts, pneumatic lockouts, plug lockouts and circuit breaker lockouts.

For further information please visit PASS Ltd’s dedicated lockout/tagout website, which provides a guide to lockout equipment in 21 product categories.

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