Increasing safety during shutdowns

TO ensure a smooth shutdown during construction projects, safety strategies must be implemented so that projects are completed by their expected deadlines.

TO ensure a smooth shutdown during construction projects, safety strategies must be implemented so that projects are completed by their expected deadlines.

Without doing this, losses that inevitably accrue when production stops for facility renovations or retrofits will potentially be magnified. The demand for compressed construction schedules — reducing the time it takes to return to normal operation — places further pressure on safety.

As an indicator, the US’s Construction Industry Institute (CII) estimates the total cost of construction-related injuries exceeds US$7bn annually. When injuries occur, owners and contractors are faced with both direct and indirect costs. These items drain resources from the start and often continue over the long-term.

Any work stoppage delays create financial risk. For owners, they have suspended production of their product, from steel to appliances to energy. For contractors, most renovation or retrofit projects include contract provisions that penalise the contractor for failing to meet deadlines.

According to the CII, shutdowns create an environment for error: although new projects do not show a significantly different safety performance when compared to renovation projects, shutdown projects were found to have poorer safety performances.

The CII states shutdowns are characterised as having tight schedules, significant amounts of overtime work, workers frequently working multiple shifts, and generally having a rapid build up of the work force. When workers and managerial personnel work extended hours for one or two months, the possibility of human error increases, and so will the probability of injury causation.

Safety strategies

To better protect employees and prevent disruptions to compressed schedules, contractors and owners are building safety strategies into their renovation plans.

To avoid costs and time delays, the use of safety strategies allows shutdown projects to be completed within a compressed schedule timeline.

Most strategies focus on two key areas: reduce the number of work hours required and reduce on-the-job hazards. Careful planning is required to meet both goals.

To reduce work hours, materials handling becomes critical. Workers are often injured when moving or installing construction materials. Contractors should arrange for suppliers to deliver materials as they are needed to avoid shifting items around the job site until they are needed. Taking steps to speed installation, such as using prefabricated parts of piping systems, helps workers complete tasks more quickly.

Contractors are also learning to avoid materials and techniques that are time-consuming to install. Grooved mechanical pipe joining provides an effective pipe joining solution with superior benefits compared to welding, threading or flanging. For example, flame and fume welding techniques can demand as much as 45% more man hours over no-flame grooved mechanical pipe joinery.

In addition, grooved mechanical pipe joining can be easily adapted to fit on-site job changes, which are particularly important during retrofit projects.

When shutdowns are required for renovations, safety planning can make or break the projects’ potential for achieving key deadlines.

When managing a compressed schedule, it’s vital that contractors and owners work together to protect employee safety — and to enjoy the benefits of lower total installed costs and speedy return to normal operations.

For more information visit

Leave a Reply