Scheduled plant shutdowns provide Texas companies with opportunities to perform preventative maintenance and improve work processes. Shutdowns may in some cases increase plant productivity rates and lessen production downtime. Businesses that properly prepare for scheduled shutdowns are more effective at keeping projects moving and preventing workplace injuries. However, operators and management should be aware of some safety concerns unique to plant shutdown tasks.
When a company's everyday staff is used to conduct plant shutdown tasks, they may be presented with safety hazards that they've not seen during normal work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires special permits before workers may enter hazardous confined spaces, for example. OSHA defines a confined space as one that is not intended for continuous occupancy but is large enough for a person to enter, with limited means of exit and entry. Conditions that may make such a space hazardous include limited oxygen or the presence of toxic vapor. Employees working in confined spaces during plant shutdowns may need special training prior to entry.
Employees who are working on elevated surfaces may need workplace safety training if they do not typically work at heights. They should be aware of fall-from-height risks and the proper use of tools like ladders before cleaning, painting or conducting other tasks during a plant shutdown. If equipment maintenance is scheduled, lockout procedures should be reviewed and employees should be trained on lockout procedures prior to beginning maintenance work.
If pipelines are to be drained and worked on during a plant shutdown, workers should understand the properties of the gases or liquids that were in the pipes. Drained lines may still contain residuals or vapors. Individuals who suffer workplace injuries may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical expenses or other damages. An attorney may be able to help an injured party by examining the facts of the case and providing advice regarding recovery via the workers' compensation system. An attorney may be able to assist with filing a claim or communicate with officials on behalf of the client.