How plant managers can reduce confined space entry to keep workers safe and operations on stream.
Entering confined spaces to inspect, service or clean equipment is a necessary — but inherently dangerous, and expensive — task in many industries.
Every year, millions of workers in a wide range of sectors go into confined spaces for inspection and maintenance work, including chemical storage tanks, grain silos, service tunnels, boilers, cargo holds, pumping stations and more. Confined spaces present unique dangers because they’re not designed for people to be working in regularly: they’re poorly ventilated, have limited or restricted access and egress, and may expose workers to toxic substances and mechanical hazards. Workers entering them face a variety of risks including exposure to toxic chemicals and gases, asphyxiation in low-oxygen environments, becoming trapped or engulfed by flowing liquids or solids like sand or grain, electric shock, and other dangers.
The statistics are sobering:
- Every week in the United States, an average of two people will go to work but not return home to their families as a result of entering a confined space;
- 136 U.S. workers died in incidents associated with confined spaces in 2015, according to the annual Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics;
- In Canada, some estimates indicate over 100 confined space deaths occur across the country each year.
- Rescuers account for over half of all confined space injuries and fatalities.
Because confined space entry requires shutting down operations, it’s also an expensive undertaking due to:
- Loss of production
- Cleaning out the tank or other equipment
- Dealing with wastewater from cleaning out equipment
- Confined space entry support
For all these reasons, plant managers and reliability engineers are looking for alternatives to confined space entry, and governments and industry associations are updating regulations to reduce injuries and fatality rates.
The UltraAnalytix® alternative to confined space entry
While it may not be possible to eliminate all confined-space tasks, more and more companies are turning to UTComp’s patented UltraAnalytix® technology as safe, reliable alternative for the evaluation of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) tanks, pipes and other industrial assets.
UltraAnalytix® combines ultrasonic data collected in the field, external visual inspection and analysis using a proprietary algorithm. Data can be collected from an external surface, often while tanks or piping are in operation, thereby limiting the need for confined space entry. There is never a need to cut test samples out of the asset, allowing the structural integrity to remain intact.
Your safest and most cost-effective solution
One of our chemical industry clients recently reported that the total cost associated with shutdown and confined space entry to inspect a scrubber topped $100,000. UltraAnalytix® inspection of this same scrubber would have cost less than $20,000, while yielding essential information on the asset’s remaining service life.
The fact is that the safest confined space entry is no entry at all. To learn more about how UltraAnalytix® can reduce confined space entry for your operation, contact us.