Safety is far and away the highest concern of each and every nuclear facility. Managers are looking for staff with knowledge of and respect for safety protocol. As public concerns over power plant safety and environmental impact spike periodically, the reputation of a nuclear facility is balanced on successful facility safety programs. The development of a corporate safety culture is critical to avoiding accidents or even near-misses and maintaining positive public opinion, both on a local scale as well as industry-wide. This article covers the most important safety tips that need to be followed when working in a power plant.
Critical Furnace Safety
When viewing flames or furnace conditions, always wear tinted goggles or a tinted shield to protect the eyes from harmful light intensity and flying ash or slag particles. Do not stand directly in front of open ports or doors, especially when they are being opened. Furnace pulsations caused by firing conditions, soot blower operation, or tube failure can blow hot furnace gases out of open doors, even on balanced draft units. Aspirating air is used on inspection doors and ports of pressure-fired units to prevent the escape of hot furnace gases. The aspirating jets can become blocked, or the aspirating air supply can fail. In some cases, the entire observation port or door can be covered with slag, causing the aspirating air to blast slag and ash out into the boiler room.
Stay on Top of Permits and Certificates
Almost all power plants have air Title V, stormwater, municipal wastewater, and fire department permits. Complying with regulations regarding air permits is vitally important, and there are hourly and annual compliance guidelines. Check your Air Title V permit and understand your emissions limits for NOx, CO, ammonia slip, and fuel firing limits. Review the calibration procedures for your continuous emissions monitors (CEMs).
There is a lot of paperwork and reporting for power-generation facilities. Some municipal waste permits require facilities to submit monthly wastewater reports; do you work in a community that requires them? Review all fire department and chemistry lab certificates; are they up to date? Make sure you import and save all reporting due dates into your calendar – local, state-federal, including EPA and OSHA – and assign alarms to those dates, so you know when something is due.
Take Training Seriously
As a manager, you are responsible for reviewing all employee training records, including those for RCRA and other plant operator certifications. Additional training is needed for someone who is signing the hazardous waste manifests. Assign pieces of training based on tasks performed so there will be consistency among employees. For example, welding training must be assigned to all employees performing the task, even though it only may be a few technicians on the site. Keeping training records for onsite contractors is good practice, and records for all employees should be maintained.
Safety Culture Matters
A corporate culture that prioritizes training and safety is one that makes safety everyone’s responsibility, not just the safety professional. When leadership takes safety seriously, when even the janitorial staff takes safety seriously, that is a culture where businesses perform well in risk management and the safety of their staff. Pieces of training around safety shouldn’t just be considered something to check off your larger to-do list. They need to be the cornerstones of your team’s work. If the expectation is there that safety comes first, along with all the “extra” work that involves, then that is when a true safety culture has been created.
Always Be Prepared
In a power plant setting, something can always go wrong. Being prepared is critical to workplace safety. When handling any type of rod or probe in the furnace, especially in coal-fired furnaces, be prepared for falling slag striking the rod or probe. The fulcrum action can inflict severe injuries. Be prepared for slag leaks. Iron oxides in coal can be reduced to molten iron or iron sulfides in a reducing atmosphere in the furnace resulting from combustion with insufficient air. This molten iron can wash away refractory, seals and tubes, and leak out onto equipment or personnel. Never enter a vessel, especially a boiler drum, until all steam and water valves, including drain and blowdown valves, have been closed and locked or tagged. It is possible for steam and hot water to back up through drain and blowdown piping, especially when more than one boiler or vessel is connected to the same drain or blowdown tank. Be prepared for hot water in drums and headers when removing manhole plates and handhole covers.
For more advice on creating a safety culture at work, connect with the team at ESGI today.