Safety in Ports and IntelliPERMIT
Article by Gavin Halse and Henry Boshoff
Safe work is a major objective for port operators. The primary goal of the safety system is to protect personnel from accident or injury. The permit to work system safety should also prevent damage to equipment and prevent any harm to the environment.
In this article we will highlight some of the special considerations when implementing a permit to work (PTW) system in a port.
Our IntelliPERMIT consulting group have, over the years, implemented a number of safety systems for mining applications in various ports. While the fundamentals are the same as other industries, ports do have some unique safety challenges.
The prevalence of high voltages associated with the materials handling equipment in a port requires special attention to electrical safety. When maintenance is performed on high voltage equipment positive isolations are required. These isolations are there to protect people working in the field and they need to be strictly controlled. Owing to the prevalence of common electrical reticulation systems with multiple dependencies, positive isolations are not always possible. Shared systems cannot always be isolated without shutting down a major plant. In every situation a very tightly controlled procedure must be used to coordinate work and to prevent safety incidents.
Management of the isolation process in a safe manner is set out in a permit-to-work (PTW) procedure. The PTW itself is a formal document that ensures that all the necessary procedures are being followed. The PTW, together with a job hazard analysis and/or job risk assessment, is the process by which hazards are identified and the necessary precautions are taken to ensure safe work. A computer based PTW system allows additional controls to be enforced by automating additional checks and incorporating site specific business rules.
Multiple role-players involved in port maintenance jobs
Work on high voltage equipment typically involves multiple teams and specialised role-players. These teams include process operations, maintenance and high voltage (HV) specialists.
Only competent personnel are allowed to perform work on HV equipment. Specially trained HV experts include operators, isolation officers and isolation assistants.
Additional restrictions will also apply for any persons working in the proximity of any HV installation; including excavations, working at heights, working in a powerline corridor, and so on. Many of these safety requirements are set out in the company’s procedures. Safety procedures also need to conform to the relevant country or state legislation.
It is, of course very important for safety reasons that all the role-players are coordinated and everyone works off a common system. In some ports a common system is not always fully available, especially when considering the many different operating companies, sub-contractors and third parties involved. This can increase the safety risk. Bringing third parties and contractors into a common safety system is an important objective of setting up the PTW system.
Safe work on bulk materials handling equipment
Mining ports typically have facilities such as long conveyers for bulk materials (such as moving coal or ore between rail to stockpile to ship). In these environments carrying out of a maintenance job will often require different teams to operate in dispersed locations. These conveyers, owing to their length will require special procedures for isolation, maintenance and testing; and strict procedures for returning the equipment into productive operation.
The long distances involved will require people moving across the site in vehicles, also making communication difficult.
Because of this movement ,there needs to be frequent interaction between the remote teams and operations, involving lots of updates. A single electronic system, using a common database, allows all relevant updates to be consolidated and accessible to all, whether using a computer terminal or a mobile device in the field.
In these situations, it is imperative that a single permit process is used to co-ordinate and control the work, and that any information relating to updates to the permits is readily accessible and acknowledged by the working parties in the field, as well as in the control stations.
Special procedures for work on HV equipment
Management of isolations can also become very complicated when long distances and remote teams are involved. It can be even more complicated when multiple jobs are scheduled on a single piece of critical equipment, for example a conveyer system. Once work is complete the conveyer needs to be tested and these tests can place other working crews at risk while they are still busy. Isolations normally involve the use of lock-boxes, isolation tags, out of service tags and so on, all of which need to be managed in a shared system.
The unique precautions relating to work on any HV installation includes personal protective equipment, the use of earthing and short circuits using custom tools and equipment, the use of specially identified locks and tags, HV trained personnel and so on.
Planning of maintenance work
Because of the inter-dependencies and various parties involved, all the role-players will usually come together ahead of time in a single location to plan the day’s maintenance work. During larger shutdowns these planning sessions can require several “down days” where the dedicated teams are freed of any other operational responsibilities to get together and plan the work in detail.
During this planning, templates are prepared in advance for the relevant permits to work and other safety documents.
IntelliPERMIT is proven in ports
Safety in a port is of course not limited to high voltage scenarios. Other aspects to consider include working at heights, confined space work etc. A holistic approach is therefore important that incorporates all aspects of routine and non-routine work and ensures a common, easy to understand procedure is in place across the whole operation.
IntelliPERMIT is a computer-based permit to work system that is proven and in use in ports across Australia and other parts of the world. The system includes provision for shutdown planning, high voltage permits, dispersed operations and is able to cater for work on specialised equipment like conveyers etc.
In ports, IntelliPERMIT has special features that help to provide visibility of work in progress and spatial intelligence that helps manage work taking place in the same area on the same equipment or using shared isolations. IntelliPERMIT also provides excellent visibility around the matrix of isolations and downstream affected equipment. IntelliPERMIT’s list of specialised features developed over the years now enables a holistic approach to management of safety in any hazardous industrial setting, including ports.