Is Your Facility at Risk During Power Outage?
Industrial Safety Concerns for Plants Without a Sufficient Uninterruptible Power Supply
In our most recent blog, we introduced the topic surrounding organizations that do not possess a proper Uninterruptible Power Source. As it was a very general introduction into the topic of an UPS, we now want to take a deeper dive into the specific risks plants, organizations, and networks are faced with when there is not an adequate UPS in place. In this post, we will be highlighting the safety concerns Industrial Plants must keep top of mind when considering the alternatives for redundant power. Alarm Systems, Safety Protocols, Automated Safety Insurances and others will be the topic of conversation in the efforts of helping assist Safety Engineers on this critical matter.
One common aspect for plants across multiple industries is the need for Control Systems to monitor and control automated processes. This can vary from a Control Desk with SCADA to a Distributed Control System (DCS). Although the functions vary from system to system, the control process provides a Human Interface to monitor and control processes throughout the plant in order to ensure safety and production are at the highest efficiency. For many plants, an Alarm System is an integral part of most Human Interfaces. “Alarm systems indicate the abnormal conditions and problems of the plant and equipment to the operators, enabling them to take corrective action and bring the plant/equipment back to normal conditions.” For a great article explaining what an Alarm System Consists of, check out this article. So what does this have to do with an Uninterruptable Power Supply? Imagine the ramifications of a total power outage across the grid, causing the monitoring systems to crash as a consequence.
Process changes that require corrective action
Monitoring unsafe operation conditions
Hazardous conditions alerts
Deviations from normal conditions
These are just a few examples of what an Alarm System monitors and alerts operators to as the state of the plant's environment. What is to ensure the plants safety protocols are functioning when power is lost? Without an Uninterruptable Power Supply, the plant is opening itself to potential risk should the plant lose a significant source of power.
So what does this all mean? Obviously an Alarm System is just one piece of the pie. Unfortunately, Industrial Plants can be one of the most hazardous atmosphere’s for a working environment. And as every Plant Manager/Facility Manager knows, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure health and safety are at the forefront of every plants risk prevention agenda. This may include a myriad of action items. But let’s pose one possible scenario. Let’s imagine that during work operations, a lightning strike incurs that cuts power to the plant. There are endless possibilities of how employees and pedestrians inside the plant can be at risk of damage to themselves or the machinery. By mandated law, every plant must have operational procedures in place to safely escort the individuals still in harm’s way to a safe zone. This may come in the form of exit signs, audio direction etc…. None of those are possible when power is out without a redundant power source, whether that be an Uninterruptible Power Supply or backup Generator. Most Plant, Facility, and Safety Engineers would never imagine bypassing these concerns, but it is still worth noting.
In conclusion, it is our goal to generate conversation around the environments we work in order to keep high priority elements top of mind. This may be a redundant detail that rarely goes overlooked, but the aspects we most commonly notch up as common sense, are usually the ones that are most commonly forgotten. There are many dynamics of conversation around an Uninterruptible Power Supply, and ensuring safety to a plant's employees and personnel go hand in hand. However, this is just one piece of the conversation. We will continue to highlight other aspects that are putting your organization at risk.
Also, if you feel Safety is a concern and would like a template to initiate that discussion, check out this Slideshare on LinkedIn that has always been a nice outline.