Safety While Working On and Around Boilers

July 7, 2014

Industrial boilers are invaluable, indispensable tools at plants, refineries, and other industrial sites. Over the years great advances have been made in the safety and dependability of industrial boilers. However, despite these advances, it still comes down to work crews, technicians, foremen, and supervisors to ensure that the proper care and precautions are taken when working on or around boilers. This article will cover some key points about good boiler-related safety practices.

General Boiler Safety Practices

There are several very important basic steps that should always be taken when working on or around industrial boilers. First, qualified safety coordinators should be involved in every project and they should ensure that all OSHA Process Safety Management (PSM) and other safety regulations are being followed. The project foremen should conduct pre-work meetings with all crews to review any potential hazards and to make workers aware of all safety requirements. All workers should commit to a plan of safety and compliance with safety practices should be mandatory. Everyone on-site should also be fully aware of emergency protocols and have easy access to contact information for emergency responders. Any new employees should be fully briefed on safety practices and be carefully supervised by a more experienced worker

Site Safety for Boiler Work

It is also extremely important that the worksite near the boiler be kept safe. Any debris or tripping hazards should be cleared from stairs, hallways, and walkways and the work areas and break areas should be kept clean and tidy. Any necessary cords, leads, and wires should be securely strung up overhead and out of the way of areas where people will be working or moving around. The work site should also be properly ventilated and a material safety data sheet (MSDS) should be displayed listing every type of chemical or material that may be hazardous. All containers should also be labelled to prevent potentially dangerous confusion about contents. Hazardous areas should also be marked off with appropriate warning tape, such as yellow for caution or red for danger.

Safety for Boiler Workers

Boiler workers themselves are naturally going to be among the most exposed to potential boiler-related accidents or threats. As such they should be properly outfitted in safety gear such as protective clothing, correctly-rated hardhats, safety glasses and face shields if they are grinding metal, spoggles if they are doing demolition or deburring work, and specially designed safety gloves when handling chemicals, high temperature equipment and materials, or items with sharp edges. Boiler workers should also use respiratory protection equipment as needed in hazardous environments and work boots that are ASTM rated and which have safety toes. Hearing protection should also be used and any jewelry or other personal items that could create a safety hazard should be removed while on the job.

Boiler Welding Safety

Special attention should be given to boiler safety when welding and other hot work is being performed. Workers should use welding screens and implement fire protection strategies around the site in question when welding or hot cutting. Properly-rated clothing and protective coverings should be used, and welding tanks should be kept out of confined spaces. Welding tanks should also be capped when they are not in use and they should be held securely in an upright position. All necessary certifications and permits should also be acquired before any work begins.

Equipment Safety Around Boilers

Emphasis should also be given to the equipment that is being used around boilers. This is particularly true since much of the equipment is likely to be electrical or pneumatic and could potentially interact dangerously with the boiler. Workers should carefully inspect their equipment’s cords and couplings and should immediately remove any damaged items from work service. The electrical equipment inspection is kept in a log and a color coded piece of tape is added to the equipment indicating a completed inspection. Workers should always unplug any electrical equipment before they attempt to change attachments. Likewise before attempting to change any attachments on pneumatic tools and equipment they should always shut off the air supply, ensure the presence of whip checks, and fully release the air pressure. Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection should be used for powering electric tools or equipment. If these step-down boxes are not available then pigtail GFCIs should be used instead.

Preventing Falls at Boiler Worksites

Falls are a threat at every worksite and that certainly includes boiler worksites. To prevent falls guardrails meeting height and force resistance regulations should be in place wherever possible. If work is being done where the presence of guardrails is not possible then workers should use personal fall protection gear such as harnesses and lanyards with a secure anchor point. All fall protection equipment should be routinely inspected. Barricades should also be used to block off areas where there are open holes and they should never be left unattended. Horizontal lifelines should be installed wherever needed.

Rigging and Scaffold Safety Around Boilers

Rigging and Scaffolds also require careful attention both in general and particularly when being used around boilers. Workers and other personnel should never be allowed to stand under suspended loads and likewise the loads shouldn’t be moved over areas where people are, or might be, standing. Only properly inspected and rated rigging should be used and only under the supervision of a qualified, competent person. Only approved shackles and other such devices should be used for attaching any and all chainfalls and rigging. Also, the proper hardware must be used when rigging hooks under the forks of a forklift. Using a sling over the forks should be prohibited as this could lead to accidents.

Scaffolds should be inspected daily by authorized personnel and no assembly or modifications of the scaffold should be done unless it is supervised by a trained, competent person. All scaffolds should be properly tagged with specs and safety requirements. Scaffolds with yellow tags will require the additional use of personal fall protection gear. All workers must be mandated to read and fully understand a scaffold’s tags prior to using the scaffold.

STI Group understands the unique safety requirements for working on and around boilers as well as conducting other industrial work. We take safety very seriously and make it our top priority. We have developed a program called, “Safety Through Involvement” to which we meticulously adhere. We carefully train and supervise workers who will be working on and around industrial boilers and we follow all safety regulations to the letter. Our customers can depend on us for unwavering boiler safety.