Guidelines for process personnel – safe and correct operation of valves in the workplace to industry guidelines and best practice.

In 2003, the NEL (National Engineering Laboratory) were asked by the Offshore Safety Division (OSD) of the UK HSE (Health & Safety Executive) to undertake a study into the problems that occurred with valves in the exploration and production activities of the Offshore Oil and Gas industry.

The HSE recognised that there were a very large number of valves used by the industry however there were frequent reports of valve problems and failures.

Overall the study showed that the underlying cause of the valve problems could be divided almost 50/50 into two main groups;

1)     The first Group is when there was a design fault or problem with the valve itself and which ultimately came under the responsibility of the valve manufacturer.

2)     The second Group was when the valve problem was due to ‘other causes’ such as incorrectly installed, incorrectly specified, operating conditions that have changed from the original conditions, operator damage or a faulty operating procedure.

Lack of training and/or inexperienced staff was seen as a contributing factor toward equipment failure; incidentally, these failures were nothing to do with the mechanical design, integrity or performance of the valve itself.

The ‘lack of training/inexperienced staff’ category illustrated very well how a problem that was initially attributed as being a valve issue, was later found to be nothing to do with the valve. Other examples were:

· Incorrectly fitted valve

· Improper inspection

· Improper testing

· Improper operation

· Non-compliance with a quality assurance procedure

· Non-compliance with a permit to work

· Human error

This evidence strongly suggested that the number of incidents could be reduced significantly by ensuring staff were fully trained, had adequate experience for the task being undertaken and that quality assurance operating procedures were correct.

Although the offshore industry has improved over the years, today, downstream industries continue to experience incidents, accidents and a significant spend on valve repair due to incorrect operations of personnel caused by incompetency and lack of equipment knowledge.

Operator training – specifically for valve operations has never been readily available to asset owners and their respective operations teams, until now..

Zulu has worked very closely with a leading UK valve repair company to successfully develop and deliver a valve training programme for operators that is now available for industry in 2021

Operators play a more critical role now than ever before – they serve as a facility’s first line of defence.

Operators are the eyes and the ears of a process plant. Therefore, operators are optimally positioned to resolve issues before they escalate and become catastrophic.

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As part of operator driven reliability, operators should be able to detect equipment and process abnormalities, as operators not only control the process, but also provide the primary surveillance on equipment operability – such as process valves

This is because they observe the equipment on a daily basis and, will most likely be the first to recognise an early problem before a catastrophic failure occurs.

Well-trained operations personnel have the ability to operate safer, better and faster, and are therefore of significant value to the facility. In addition to process training, it is also vital that facilities provide an element of mechanical training relevant to the operator’s assigned area.

We have successfully rolled out this training in 2019 to Europe’s largest steel making plant (located in South Wales, UK) and are now looking at expansion into all industry sectors including nuclear, oil/gas, petrochemical and utilities.

This training enables operators to fully understand the inner workings of equipment. With this knowledge, they will better recognise changes in sound, temperature, vibration, output and other variables, which can facilitate the early detection of failure, and initiate proactive intervention.

The impact of most equipment failures can be minimised when operators “know” their equipment and understand what “normal” and “abnormal” looks and sounds like. This holistic approach can help minimise;

a) Repair costs,

b) Reduce down time,

c) Mitigate or eliminate safety hazards,

d) Extend equipment life.

The reliability of plant and equipment can be improved to give longevity to the lifecycle of the asset and drastically reduce spend on repair and replacement directly attributed to human factors, inefficient operations or incompetency’s.

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Training course content includes;

·        Valve types, functions and configurations

·        Valve maintenance and operation

·        Valve failure analysis

·        Principles of mechanical joint integrity of bolted joints

·        Flange gaskets/valve packing

·        Government regulations, industry guidelines and best practice

·        Human factors

For further information regarding full course details and available delivery dates, please contact our training department ;

+44 (0) 1246 209680

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