Industrial Turnaround: Under Pressure

industrial turnaround safety

“Under Pressure” is a song by the British rock band Queen and singer David Bowie. Originally released as a single in October 1981, it was later included on Queen’s 1982 album, Hot Space

The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Queen’s second number-one hit in their home country and Bowie’s third, and also charted in the top 10 in more than ten countries worldwide.

Like David Bowie’s and Queen’s recording of “Under Pressure,’ the work environment during an industrial turnaround can be described as a workplace “under pressure.”

What creates pressure during an industrial turnaround?

Let us look at ten sources.


Pressure to complete the turnaround project requires effective planning on the part of all parties—pressure to complete all the preplanned maintenance and repair goals on time and within budget. 

Each day, week, and month of a turnaround schedule is a day, week, and month of lost revenue. Planning in advance is critical, while in the background, there is always a chance that the planning will have to be changed or updated due to unforeseen problems.

Limited Space

Industrial turnarounds have limited space within a facility to complete all the required maintenance and repair goals. At the same time, additional new equipment designed for updated processes will have to be staged for installation within the existing process. 

Mobile cranes onsite are necessary for lifting extremely heavy processing equipment. Cranes take up a lot of real estate and require adequate room to operate. At the same time, a mobile crane swing radius (counterweight) can be hazardous to workers and other equipment.


Industrial turnarounds require a lot of workers. This demand for labor adds to the overall congestion in the facility and increases the risk of injury and loss. The majority of workers who work for contractors are new to a processing facility, which increases the probability of injury and loss of time during production. Well-trained and educated safety representatives need to collaborate with workers to advise and instruct them on safe work procedures.

Confined Spaces

Processing facilities involve a high number of confined space entries. Many of these spaces are permit-required, and workers must follow OSHA regulations. A permit-required confined space may contain a host of chemical and atmospheric hazards. Multiple teams of workers must be trained when work is required in a permit-required, confined space.

Locks and Tags

Controlling unexpected energy that is associated with processing equipment is a major concern and must be planned by qualified and authorized personnel. Procedures for de-energizing a process may have to be written and checked on the go. This extremely complicated process requires a host of safety-minded personnel to be on board.

Elevated Work

From scaffolds to aerial lifts to pipe racks, elevated work is all around a turnaround workplace. Next to driving a vehicle while on the job, falls are the second leading cause of workplace fatalities and serious injuries. Elevated work requires training of employees in recognition of fall hazards and how to choose to use and inspect personal fall arrest equipment. The proper use of ladders, scaffolds, and anchor points should be at the top of the list.

Hot Work

Even though some processes may be under maintenance and repair and may not be in full operating mode, some adjacent processes may be in full operating mode. Sound-safe work practices during hot work, like welding, need to be permitted and managed by responsible safety personnel and workers to prevent unexpected fires and/or explosions.


High noise is everywhere in an industrial turnaround environment. Noise over 85 dbA on an eight-hour time-weighted average can begin to damage the ear’s cochlea. Being able to measure the level of noise and implement hearing protection devices is the responsibility of employers and contractors. Providing education and training on the effects of high noise is essential. No worker wants to live with chronic hearing loss.

Emergency Response

OSHA requires all employers in every industry to have a well-planned emergency response plan in a written program onsite. All workers are required to be trained on how the emergency plan affects them. 

When planning a refinery turnaround, it is critical to have a rescue team onsite and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Organizing a chaotic situation during an emergency is difficult for those who have not done it before. And putting your employees’ safety in the hands of inexperienced emergency teams is dangerous.

Safety Inspections and Controls

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates workplace safety and health regulations. There are a host of OSHA regulations that apply to the work activities that take place in a turnaround environment. Well-trained and educated safety representatives are an asset to successful turnaround completion. Safety and health representatives can impact all elements of a turnaround: cost, quality, production, and, of course, safety. When safety and health rules are viewed as a value-added versus a priority, a facility turnaround can be completed successfully.

Finally, Safety First

Even though Safety First is used as a guiding star for many industrial worksites, let us not forget that safety, production, quality, and cost are analogous to the success of a plant turnaround.

Partner with ResponsAble and take proactive steps to protect your employees, your operations, and your reputation. Together, we can build a safer and more successful future for your organization.

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