Baker & O'Brien, Inc.

Case Studies

Case Studies details

Case Studies details

Turnaround Incident Involving Multiple Contractors - Were Procedures Bypassed?

Litigation, North America

November 1, 2021

In the refining industry scheduled maintenance shutdowns, also known as turnarounds (TA), are performed to enable safe and reliable operations for a three-to-five-year operating cycle or until the next TA. Capital projects and equipment modifications are also often performed during a TA.

A TA presents unique risks – e.g., confined space entry, energy isolation, hot work - that are not typical during routine operations. OSHA regulations and company work practices, such as performing job safety analyses and issuing safe work permits (SWPs), have been developed to address and minimize these risks. However, risks are compounded by the large number of contractors and operating company departments involved in these activities. Such was the case in the installation of two spool pieces on a process unit flare header when an injuring over-pressure incident ejected a pipe plug, a contractor.

There were three primary companies associated with the incident: (1) the operating company that issued SWPs and prepared the equipment for work by isolating it and keeping under nitrogen pressure during the installation; (2) a specialty contractor that performed cold cuts to remove pipe sections and then, to enable a nitrogen purge during the work, installed plugs in the open ends of the flare header; and (3) a construction contractor that then welded on flanges and installed the spool pieces.

Baker & O’Brien was engaged to assess all of the activities by each company and determine the contributing factors to the incident. Our conclusions were submitted in an expert report.