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Common Boiler Problems, Part 10: Human Factor

Let’s assume that despite everything else, you ended with a properly installed and commissioned system. The staff, consultants, and vendors have now left your site. Who is now qualified to operate and maintain the equipment? Operations, maintenance and people issues are now by far your biggest equipment safety issue. Statistics for boiler incidents show that nearly 40% of all deaths and accidents are caused by human error or poor maintenance. A lot of your success will depend on the safety culture at your site.

The day after everyone has gone, and you’re now alone with your officially blessed equipment, one poorly trained person with a “well placed” screwdriver can reduce your operation to rubble and kill everyone around in less than five minutes.

It takes a lot of effort to change culture and practices that have evolved over the decades. In the beginning, you will probably get a lot of the same old, “Gee, we have been doing it this way for years.”

Start with a gap analysis of your equipment’s state of protection relative to current codes. Prioritize our needs and address them at a comfortable pace. Conduct a “human gap analysis” to identify the state of knowledge and skills regarding operations and maintenance staff. Make operator training a regular and serious effort. The bottom line is that implementing comprehensive equipment safety programs saves lives. The right thing to do is to be proactive. This is not the thing to do under duress of catastrophes and death.

Once an incident occurs, it means years of court cases, job losses, higher insurance rates, and maybe even criminal litigation. It also takes years to overcome the loss of safety credibility to your employees and the community. Taking the right steps ahead of time, and equipping your plant and employees with the training, knowledge, and tools they need to do their jobs saves lives.


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