Planned Power Plant Outages: Hiring the Right Safety Personnel

By Meg Whynot-Young

The coordination of work for a planned outage at a power plant is a major undertaking. Knowing you have the right personnel on board for the length of the shutdown is key, but can be one of the major difficulties that power plant managers face.

During shutdowns, the size of the workforce can quadruple. That’s a lot of fresh faces for a very critical and complex undertaking, and you want to make sure you hire not only the number of workers you need but get highly qualified and trained workers onboard when you need them.

Nothing is more important during an outage than safety, and therefore it is imperative that you get the right person for the Safety Manager role. Of course, emphasis on return-to-service makes efficiencies a primary focus and having an experienced professional ensuring the safety of the workers will drive efficiency.

Pre-Planning for Safety During an Outage

The list of safety considerations when pre-planning for an outage is long and varies between plants and the maintenance and repair activities that are to take place. However, some core concerns are pretty uniform across the board.

1. Safety Training for Personnel- Is there specialized training that will be needed for the work that will take place, such as Permit-Required Confined Space training? Are everyone’s certifications up to date that will be involved in the work? Have you completed the annual Respiratory Fit Testing and Medical Evaluation Questionnaires? Are your training records up to date? There must be time planned for the training of existing personnel ahead of the outage. Additionally, there should be a required set of certifications and experience new personnel must have to be brought on for the outage, or plan to provide safety training for them as well.

2. Safety Equipment- Plan to purchase required safety equipment ahead of the outage, this will help to avoid any budgeting approval issues or issues with sourcing and delivery. Knowing what you will need ahead of time can also help to reduce shipping and expediting costs. Additionally, you’ll need to inventory and inspect the safety equipment already on site.

3. Emergency Action Planning- Coordination of emergency and rescue services is something that takes time and careful planning. Your safety team must liaise with local community resources as well as identify emergency resources within the power plant.
Pre-planning for safety mitigates the need to stop work due to safety concerns, allowing you to achieve your return-to-service goals.

Consistency Reduces Costs

Once you’ve been through a few outages at a particular plant, you will find that there are some aspects of it that don’t change, that you don’t want to change, from one outage to the next. There are also aspects that are unique to your plant. Hiring personnel for outages who have been “through it” with you before, particularly your safety team, can make the whole process go more smoothly and efficiently. This can be a tall order since outages last for a limited period. Those in the industry know it can be a headache trying to get the same person you hired for your last outage to join you for your next one. Because most power plants plan outages for times when power demand is lower, there tends to be a season (or seasons) for them- spring and fall. This creates a demand in the market for experienced and qualified workers. However, the benefits of having the same people return are significant. You will spend less time on training new personnel to your power plant if they are with you through each outage season. Return hires will begin to be able to increase efficiencies without comprising safety by refining their work processes, and by knowing what to expect. There will be fewer “unknowns” or variables for plant management as well. You should know what to expect from your workers from one season to the next and be able to create a consistent culture of safety. Having returning qualified safety personnel is a big step towards that goal.

Contract Safety Annually

When you contract for your safety personnel annually, you will have the ability to get the same qualified consultant back each season. Reserving your safety personnel for your outage seasons will reduce your costs overall, and can increase the safety of the project.  United Alliance Services has answered the problem of getting your favorite folks to return by creating the ability to reserve them with an annual contract. Once you have signed on with United Alliance Services for the year, your safety consultant will be assigned to you and only you. There will be only one orientation period, rather than repeating the same information with a different person for each outage. The learning curve all but disappears, and you will be able to get to work faster, planning and executing a successful and safe shutdown.

If you are interested in learning more about reserving your safety consultant with United Alliance Services, call us at (877) 399-1698.