The world of power generation is risky. From turbine-associated accidents to rigging and lifting hazards, the power sector experiences numerous fatalities and deaths. Each year, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) shares shocking information on how on-site riggers get injured or killed when they are caught in, get struck/compressed by heavy equipment, get electrocuted or fall from heights.
Heavy equipment lifting is a common operation in all types of power plants. Installing and maintaining large-scale power equipment, such as steam reactors, nuclear reactor, solar panels, turbines, and generators are challenging as most apparatus is bulky, awkwardly shaped, and off-balanced.
Given the exigent nature of operations, riggers in the power domain need to exercise caution and follow certain safety strategies to prevent hazards, thereby ensuring the wellbeing of the staff, equipment, and the site.
This post offers vital information on how riggers can prevent the common lifting hazards seen in the power sector.
1) Follow Rigorous Monitoring and Safety Procedures
First things first, each worker in the rigging team should be trained to comply with the standard rigging procedures, document technical issues, use fit rigging components, store the hoist and hook safely, and dispose of impaired rigging gear safely.
Every rigger should refer to the operation manual and the plant's load charts to be aware of the factors that influence the load balancing, namely the boom length, load radius, and maximum angle capabilities.
The rigging inspector should periodically update the inspection chart with the serial number of the equipment, the date it was put into service, its condition, and the latest date of maintenance or repair.
The core safety considerations include the use of strong slings and machinery that is in top working condition, not allowing heavy equipment to be suspended in air when the machine has been switched off and designating a spotter to ensure proper and timely site clearances.dl>
Lastly, storing the rigging and lifting equipment safely is critical to prevent the hoists, hooks, slings, and chains from damage by environmental factors. Riggers should ensure that the equipment is safely stored in a secure place, thereby reducing the risk of potential hazards to people.
2) Engage in Pre-Operational Inspection
Lifting heavy power equipment at heights requires constant attention to detail. Therefore, in addition to the safe design and installation and routine checks, pre-operation inspection is critical. These inspections should be carried out throughout the lifetime of the lifting equipment.
Riggers should anticipate hazards and take a moment to inspect the rigging gear for damage or corrosion. They should also verify the compatibility between the rigging attachments and hardware, and check the overhead power lines and PPE (personal protective equipment) before commencing any type of industrial lifting.
A qualified rigging inspector is aware of the industry's standard procedure and may use visual examination, functional checks, internal examination, non-destructive testing (NDT), and load testing to assess the safety of the lifting equipment.
3) Don't Ignore Load Tension Calculations
The rigging system supports heavy equipment; therefore, riggers need to accurately assess the load imposed on the system. Even minor adjustments can have a significant impact on the forces acting on the load, causing it to fall or go off balance.
If not balanced well, loads can swing, causing the crane to tip over, injure people, and damage property. Hence, riggers should be aware of the load plan for the proposed rig which shares details of the load capacity and center of gravity, the speed at which they need to be lifted, and the load distribution through the lifting points on the structure.
The universal strategy for safe and effective industrial lifting is to keep the load balanced. In other words, riggers should make sure that the upper suspension and the load hook form a straight line and the chain and hoist do not come in contact with the load.
4) Invest in Superior-Quality Lifting Equipment
Investing in superior rigging and lifting equipment can not only make the site safe for the working staff but also help power plants optimize their resources.
As a result, power plants are making an effort to employ smart and explosion-proof cranes for hazardous environments, maintenance cranes for general plant use, and heavy-lift ships for offshore OEM transportation. These are equipped with remote monitoring technologies and wireless controls to make the work environment safe for riggers and on-site workers.
Additionally, the use of a single crane for lifting and balancing loads can increase the risk of damage to the load and cause on-site injuries. Modern cranes offer precision load maneuvering using hydraulic lifting cylinders that can independently balance, tilt, and position loads whilst ensuring safe industrial lifting operations.
Several OEM suppliers are offering high-tech features like slack-rope sensors and real-time GPS system that can help riggers in the power industry conduct proactive maintenance, thereby reducing the risk of hazards on the site.
The power sector also has a considerable proportion of OEM equipment transported by sea. Such offshore heavy lifting demands specialist vessels with cranes and jack-up barges that can lift the entire rig or the offshore substation.
Reputed rigging equipment suppliers are aware of the challenges in heavy equipment lifting in the power-generation domain. Therefore, it is wise to partner with such industry experts to install quality lifting gear and reduce the risk of hazards on the site.
5) Ensure Regular Maintenance
Though employing the best-quality rigging equipment and industrial lifts is important, nothing can replace routine maintenance of the lifting apparatus at the power plants.
The lifting apparatus should go through routine maintenance, repairs, spare parts replacements, and technology upgrades to ensure safe rigging and lifting operations. In fact, numerous lifting equipment suppliers are offering long-term maintenance services as a part of their product offering.
Performing safe lifting operations in a power plant require intense safety preparation and attention to detail. The information shared in this post will be useful to riggers in the power industry, enabling them to perform smooth heavy-equipment-lifting operations and reduce the risk of accidents.