Precautions to Be Taken During Plant Shutdown
Industrial Fire Safety
Special problems arise when a plant is shut down for more than the normal scheduled periods, whatever the reason may be. To prevent a fire and be sure of prompt extinguishment if one occurs, adequate safeguards must be provided.
All factors surrounding a closing must be carefully scrutinized, as the safeguards must be tailored to the particular circumstances. The following basic suggestions are provided as a guide to safeguarding your property during a shutdown and can be added to or subtracted from as your situation dictates.
Housekeeping: As good housekeeping is the basis for all good fire prevention plans and necessary to reduce the combustible fire-loading of a building or area, all waste materials of every kind, such as rags and packing materials, must be removed from the premises. Yard areas must be kept free of trash, tall grass and weeds.
Process materials: Hazardous chemicals and flammable liquids kept in tanks need to be drained and/or removed from premises. If cans or drums of flammable liquids, such as paints, inks, and thinners, must remain in the plant, they should be taken from production floors and placed in a suitable flammable liquids storage vault.
All drums should be protected by bung vents, ground wires and sufficient air movement in compliances with NFPA standards. All gas cylinders, if not also removed, must be securely chained to wall storage spaces. All valves should be checked to assure they are in closed position and cylinder caps should be replaced. Class A materials, such as wood, paper, etc., should be neatly stacked or racked to control floor space use and assure wide
aisle spaces throughout the plant.
Power and utilities: If not required for maintaining boilers, hot water or other uses, all incoming gas should be cut off by closing valves at the entrance to property, and any gas in plant piping should be bled off. Transformers should be de-energized, if possible. All switches at control panels should be pulled, except where current is needed. If heat and partial boiler use is not required, boilers should be taken off the line according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Maintenance procedures: In all probability, there will be a number of .maintenance personnel on the premises at all times—and possibly outside contractors. Therefore, there is a need to re-emphasize the plant’s standing rules and regulations concerning welding and cutting. These safeguards include wetting down areas of combustible construction prior to starting work, removing or covering with fireretardant covers goods that cannot be removed from the work area, making available fire extinguishers and hose lines, and providing a fire watch during the work and for at least 30 minutes after the job is finished. The no smoking rule for the plant premises must also be observed by all work crews. It is also recommended that written instructions about these items and other items, such as pipe cutting and electrical systems work, be made available to maintenance workers.
Security measures: It is expected that guard services and watchman rounds will be continued, with such personnel being carefully supervised. All telephones need to remain in service with updated emergency phone numbers for the fire department, police, first aid squads and plant supervisory personnel posted at all telephone stations. It is vital to maintain, if not increase, lines of communication during this period. Fences and locked gates require daily checking and, when necessary, repairs should be made to reduce possibility of unauthorized entry to the premises. If the premises are adjacent to city streets or railroad tracks, it is also necessary to lock all windows and repair broken ones without delay with wired glass or a breakresistant glass substitute. Thought should also be given to maintaining perimeter lighting or installing it if the area and shutdown conditions warrant the expense.
Fire protection: As great reliance must be placed upon automatic sprinklers and other spot, fixed, automatic methods of fire extinguishment, all such systems must be checked and the results recorded. In connection with water supplies, all control valves must be tried and sealed and/or locked in the open position. Fire tanks, towers, reservoirs, fire pumps and allied connections must be checked and left in working condition by plant personnel or authorized servicing agents. If the plant has central station or proprietary water flow, fire detection or valve supervisory services, they must be checked periodically and kept in full operating condition. Fire extinguishers must be checked, made accessible and, if necessary, recharged. The fire brigade, if composed of maintenance or security personnel on the site, can be effective in a fire or other emergency, but it is necessary to provide adequate periodic training in fire prevention and protection as conditions dictate.
If the plant is to be closed longer than the normal vacation period, a prompt, written notification of the closing should be sent to the local fire department, advising it of the security and fire protection measures taken. As your insurance agent and carrier have a vital interest in your plant, it would be well to include them in this type of notification.