Safety Practices for a Successful Plant Shutdown

A successful plant shutdown starts with a safe workforce. A documented procedure, communication, and well-trained team are key. The following are some of the best safety practices for a successful plant shutdown.


The single best thing you can do for a successful plant shutdown is to give yourself enough time to plan the outage effectively. The standard recommendation is that you begin planning four months before the scheduled outage. Check out Chemical Engineering Magazine’s plant turnaround checklist  for extra assurance that you aren’t missing any crucial considerations during the planning stage.


Your document lockout procedure (see below) must anticipate all potential risks, to avoid them.


Plant turnaround safety is something that needs to be refreshed each year, given the high level of risk associated with the work. Include an emergency response procedure, and invest in the safety of your workers ahead of time. Consider outsourcing safety training to safety training management platforms such as SafeForce or Industrial Training Services to save time and money.


Occupational Safety puts it bluntly: you would never clean a meat slicer without first unplugging the machine and (if possible) locking up the plug until the job is done. This rings especially true for machines that store massive amounts of energy. Unplug the machine, lock up the gear and keep the key until all work is done. This is one of the simplest ways to keep your workforce safe from the risk of moving parts during a plant shutdown.


Keep all hazardous and dangerous material locked up and safely stored, out of the work area, during the shutdown.


Some plants, typically chemical, pose a real risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. This might include acidic chemicals, flammable gases, toxic fumes, airborne fibers, etc. Bring on a specialist to test for exposure risk, and check out OSHA’s resources on Controlling Exposures if you detect hazards you need to control.


Restraint pads can be used to keep the system from turning back on while your workers are completing the maintenance work. The worker who is completing the machine’s work should be the first one the turn off the machine, padlock the system and hold the key. And the last person to remove the padlock!


A lack of resources will impede the success of your maintenance shutdown. You don’t want to assign a single worker with more work than they can successfully oversee—you’ll often see this dilemma with plant engineers. This compromises the success and reduces the safety of your shutdown.


Plant shutdowns can be dangerous. One of the best ways to avoid injuries is with communication. Develop your own code: phrases to quickly flag that there is a danger or that some form of swift response is needed to resolve the immediate danger. This can be as simple as ‘do not energize.’ or ‘do not operate.’—these safety slogans, talk messages, and/or banners can save you time and an avoidable injury.


Heavy machinery plays a large role in most shutdowns. Make sure that the workers you assign to man this machinery are trained and qualified, and that there is always someone spotting outside the machine to guide their transport of the equipment.


If you’re concerned about approval from inspectors (which we all should be), you’ll want a documented process for the maintenance of each machine. This ensures that as outage workers and plant executives come and go, the training and procedure for the plant shutdown is passed on. This procedure includes the following: who will do the work, which energy sources need to be controlled, where control panels are and steps for removing the lockout.

Adhere to these best safety practices for a successful plant shutdown and you’re well on your way to a more productive plant and a safer, happier workforce!

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5 Ways to Cut Plant Shutdown Maintenance Costs

How are you cutting plant shutdown maintenance costs? Following suit with our shutdown, turnaround, and outage blog series, we got together and crowdsourced some of the best ways to cut those costs during one of the most stressful times of the year—shutdown, turnaround, or outage season. Have a read, lets us know what you think! 


Use project management software to streamline the planning and execution processes. If you’ve never relied on software to manage your shutdowns, turnarounds, or outages, it may seem like a big and unnecessary transition. But through research and speaking with professionals in the field, we’ve found major positive trade-offs for folks who made the change to relying on project management software. Many companies will offer a free trial:

  • RoserConSys’s the Roser Software Suite for shutdowns, turnarounds, outages & maintenance helps with scope nomination and optimation, risk analysis, quality control, cost and estimations, and a range of other support.
  • Bentley provides a variety of solutions built specifically for nuclear power plants. From asset performance management to advanced work packaging—their software can help you to get comfortable using project management tools and make the full transition during your next scheduled plant shutdown
  • EcoSys has awesome software options catered toward energy, oil, gas, chemical, utilities, and construction industries. Their software is, appropriately, built for your industry, concerned primarily with better efficiency and general success of major projects like plant shutdowns. Check them out—you can manage project portfolios, control project costs, and improve general performance.


Start planning your outage early on. This way, you can adjust the plan should maintenance task priority change, and adapt to these inevitable changes in the master plan. Nick Gaglia’s article in Electric Light & Power puts it well—plan your next outage carefully and your people and blood pressure will thank you.

“After defining the scope and identifying the pre-outage work, the client and contractor should firm up price and schedule. A work breakdown structure (WBS) makes this easier by enabling the team to break up a large project into smaller, more manageable tasks.”-Nick Gaglia


Order or rent only the bare minimum equipment needed to effectively complete the project. Equipment can sap your budget as fast as any other cost, so it’s a great place to be tight about what’s absolutely necessary to get the job done. Additionally, renting rather than purchasing equipment saves both time and money.


Work with an experienced contractor to oversee and validate the prioritization of maintenance tasks on your lists. You may be taking on too much for the amount of labor or capital you have at your disposal. Or your tasks may be prioritized incorrectly. You want to be sure you’re taking on the work that is absolutely necessary and will pay off. Some tasks will yield major productivity and reliability improvements, and you want to be sure your plan coincides with which  this work that’s vital.

In addition, you and your team must be in agreeance about the scope of the project. Arash Shahi does an awesome job of understanding the importance of defining and sticking to the scope as a team—especially when executing STO (shutdown, turnaround, outage) projects.

“One of the most common causes for STO projects going over time and over budget is ‘scope creep’, driven primarily by multiple conflicting objectives. In order to minimize the risk from scope changes, the scope of an STO project needs to be agree upon well in advance…”-Arash Shahi

Putting off work of lesser urgency is an excellent way to free up the headspace and capital to focus on the highest priority tasks. Life Reliability and Reliable Plant both have  excellent resources  on calculating the priority of your maintenance tasks


Find the workers you need by using a labor contractor. Make sure whoever you get your labor through knows the skilled trades, and can promise a temporary workforce that is not only reliable but experienced in shutdown, turnaround, or outage work.

We don’t have to tell you—shutdowns can be, for lack of a better term, a big pain in the ass. Relying on a labor contractor is a great way to free up time, money, and ultimately energy to focus on successful planning and execution of the work that will benefit your plant for years to come. The last thing you want to be doing is scrambling last minute to find the welders, ironworkers, millwrights, and skilled workers you need to get the job done!

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Management Strategies: Shutdowns, Turnarounds, and Outages


Scheduled shutdowns, outages, and turnarounds are a big deal. There is a world of resources out there, however, with tips, insights, and management strategies for getting the job done right. So our team went out and gathered some of the best resources out there from experienced managers in the field. Check it out, let us know what you think, and lend us your two cents on how you plan and execute your plant shutdown, outage, or turnaround.


Life Cycle Engineering’s article from Tim Kister offers practical and applicable ways to make your outage more efficient all around. In his words, “Outages can only be successful when the outage work is planned effectively before the work is scheduled and/or started.” He covers everything from determining high-priority tasks and defining the scope to identifying hazards and estimating the necessary labor resources. His lends recommendations on how far out to identify work tasks while successfully adhering to the project timeline.

“Outage management is an effective tool for reducing costs and increasing plant productivity.  When the decision is made to identify major outage work far in advance and then carefully plan the work for maximum ease of execution, the result will be lower costs.”

Kister recommends that the personnel planning the operation ask their team the following questions to ensure they have planned each facet of the project thoroughly:

  • Is the scope of work clear, concise and easily understood?
  • Have all aspects of the task have been evaluated and addressed?
  • Have the job hazards, safety, permit requirements and potential obstacles been identified, addressed and communicated within the work order?
  • Does the task sequence make sense, is the methodology defined, and does it include special instructions, specifications and testing/quality checks?
  • Have all determinable material, parts, tools and equipment requirements been addressed and actions taken to provide the necessary items with delivery within the prescribed “need by” dates?


Kevin Duffy—vice president of operational excellence for Kepner-Tregoe (KT) offers an in-depth look at outage management in his contribution to Reliable Plant. His team recognizes that shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages are not just engineering and maintenance projectsthey command capital and operating budgets while attracting the attention of key stakeholders and boards of directors. Appropriately then, he calls shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages (STO’s) ‘whole business events’, not single-function operations. Duffy’s breakdown of the phases of activities integral to STO planning and execution include the following:

  • Detailed planning and organization of the work involved
  • Removal of assets from production
  • Inspection and work execution, product changes, repairs, improvement activities or a combination of these
  • Restart of the asset/unit/plant and restoration to “should” performance levels

“STOs are more complex than other project-based events. Quite simply, they involve both planned activities and unplanned work resulting from inspection of part of a machine or asset which is not accessible or visible during normal operations.”-Kevin Duffy


Our team found Ghosh, McQueen, and Chambers’s contribution to Power Engineering to be an excellent, comprehensive breakdown of an outage—on defining  program goals, the planning process, activities key throughout the planning and execution phases, and what to do in between outages. They recommend breaking down the outage planning process into four fundamental steps:

  1. Pre-outage work and preparation for an upcoming outage
  2. Outage execution and knowledge capture
  3. Post-outage analysis
  4. Reliability centered maintenance (RCM) activities between outages.

“Outage planning is a critical process aimed at ensuring that unanticipated maintenance or repair activities are avoided during an overhaul.”

Equipped with software and system recommendations for managing the operation, their article is a great place to start if you’re looking to have a more efficient outage season. Each contributor has extensive experience in operations, maintenance, and/or power industries—so they really know what they’re talking about.

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7 Tools to Help You Survive Your Plant Outage


A plant outage can be a lot like hell. Maintenance costs are stressing your cash flow, your agenda is stretched, and production is flatlining. But with the right tools, you can survive your plant outage. And not only that, but you can save time and money while increasing the productivity of your the shutdown period. And, perhaps most importantly, you can sleep well knowing your plant will be more efficient after all the hard work. The following resources will get you started.


Traveling Nuker is a scheduling and hiring database where skilled building trade union members can easily find maintenance and system upgrade projects on nuclear plants throughout the states. Where workers used to have to piece together jobs for outages, shutdowns, and turnarounds through personal contacts and newspaper ads, all the information is now accessible from one place!  They’re currently offering a free test run, so sign your plant up and upload your manpower needs and outage schedule for to access more talent.


Fluor is an engineering, procurement, construction (EPC), maintenance, and project management company. They specialize in challenging capital projects and have expertise in managing plant turnarounds, shutdowns, and outages. It’s no news that minimizing downtime and maximizing the productivity of your shutdown is the ideal, right? A project management company like Fluor could help you with this, given their experience in power generation, oil refining, chemical processing, and other industrial fields. Check them out and see if they could help you streamline and simplify your outage.


Check out a project management system like ATC Professional, built uniquely for process industry turnarounds (oil refinery, petrochemical plants, fertilizer plants, pulp and paper mills, power plants, etc.). They know well that turnarounds aren’t just another big project. They require tremendous foresight, planning, and wise prioritization of maintenance tasks. ATC gets it, and their system could help you in building your budget and reporting structure beforehand and staying on schedule during execution.


Nuke Worker is an incredibly thorough site with job postings, advertisements, outage schedules, training, and much more. Their forum gets a lot of traffic, and they aggregate all the news in nuclear industries, so it’s an ideal place to sign your plant up and post jobs. Register your company, launch some ads, and upload your labor needs or outage schedule! If you’re feeling ambitious, you can even direct your local workforce to Nuke Workers site to prepare for and complete their training and certifications.


Much like Nuke Worker and Travelling Nuker, Roadtechs  is an excellent place to upload your outage schedule and labor needs. They cover everything from nuclear, petrochemical, fossil and alternative energy to shipyard and aerospace industries. An employer registration can get you a single job posting, a year’s worth, or a few month’s worth—whichever makes the most sense for your outage manpower needs!

“A turnaround that goes badly, lasts for too long, or exceeds its budget could result in the company unexpectedly reporting fiscal losses. On the other hand, a turnaround that goes well and stays within its budget and timeline will make a huge contribution to the plant’s efficiency and safety…setting the plant up for even bigger success in the future.”-STi GROUP


Consider utilizing companies like Contract Resources who provide specialized services focused on making your operation more efficient. They work within industrial fields: oil refineries, petrochemical plants, mineral processing, renewables and utilities—you know the gig. They offer a wide range of services—everything from catalyst and mechanical, tank and mechanical, heat exchanger to hydro-jetting and cold cutting, pipeline services, and (you guessed it) shutdowns and turnarounds. Their project planning and estimating support can free up the leeway for you to focus on the more important decisions and pieces, rather than getting bogged down in project execution. And they promise a strong focus on the safety of the workforce—always a good thing!

“A nuclear plant outage is huge, complex undertaking involving thousands of activities typically over the course of three to four weeks. “-G. Weatherby


If possible, take the time to deep dive into the literature out there around making your turnaround less costly, more productive, and with less downtime. Emerson’s 6-step process, IAEA’s Management Strategies for Nuclear Power Plant Outages and IDC Technology’s Practical Shutdown and Turnaround Management for Engineers and Managers are just a handful of the resources out there. But there is a wealth of knowledge, experience, and advice out there from industry veterans like yourself who’ve been through the ringer when it comes to managing an outage. So set some time aside, pick your poison, and prepare thyself for a smoother, less stressful outage, turnaround or shutdown!

“The engineering world is littered with examples of poor shutdowns with massive overruns in costs and problems in resource planning. Performing an effective shutdown is an example of applying many of the principles of good project management with some important exceptions…”-IDC Technologies

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