Tailored training ensures safe line breaking

Published:  09 February, 2017

Cleaning, repair and maintenance of industrial systems can sometimes cause damage to pipework. Compliance with a line breaking policy is therefore essential to reduce the potential dangers. PWE reports.

In process manufacturing environments, pipework can often be broken or damaged during maintenance, cleaning and repair work. Compliance with a line breaking policy is therefore critical in helping to reduce risk of injury. People working in these environments should be fully trained in the safe methods of breaking lines and should be aware of the importance of processing and complying with a line breaking policy or permit, as well as the proper procedures to follow (as described in HSG253, Health & Safety Executive Guidance Note: 2006) both before and after line breaking.

It is important too that operators, supervisors and maintenance technicians are able to identify the dangers of industrial fluids within their plant, as well as the direction of fluid flows in pipework. Knowing which tools to use and what type of personal protective equipment to wear for safe line breaking are also critical.

One company that is benefiting from line breaking training is cereal manufacturer Kelloggs UK. The company’s production plant in Manchester is Europe’s largest cereals factory, producing over one million packs of corn, rice and wheat-based cereals each day.

The factory produces cereals around the clock, 24/7, 340 days a year. In order to ensure production runs smoothly and safely, Kelloggs regularly ensures that its operators, engineers and maintenance teams are fully trained.

Peter Carey, training manager at Kelloggs UK Manchester, is responsible for training of the factory’s 412 employees. He has been working closely with Technical Training Solutions (TTS) for the last 10 years, helping to develop specific tailored training courses for Kelloggs’ employees. He comments: “TTS has provided a variety of training courses for our engineering, operations and maintenance teams over the years, including courses on mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, 17th Edition wiring regulations, five-day passport electrical safety training, and line breaking.”

Carey approached TTS 10 years ago when the Manchester factory had a specific need for a safe line breaking training course. “As you can imagine, the factory here is full of pipework systems that transport steam, compressed air and hot process materials such as syrup around the plant. To comply with safety legislation and to reduce the risk of injury when cleaning, repairing or maintaining pipework, we decided to look for a suitable line breaking training course. However, finding a suitable course was much more difficult than we expected,” explains Carey.

After searching online, Carey came across TTS. Although at the time TTS did not have a specific training course on line breaking, Carey asked if one could be developed. “We did some training requirements analysis to see exactly what we needed in terms of specific training. TTS took this information away and developed a course from scratch that precisely met our needs,” states Carey.

After running a pilot line breaking course first, TTS analysed the feedback from course delegates and tweaked the course to include a more practical focus. As David Larner, director at TTS states: “The last thing candidates want is a dark, warm room and a PowerPoint presentation. We therefore developed a very practical course with several training rigs that simulate real industrial pipework. Candidates can practice each of the skills that the course provides on these training rigs, as well as perform the key ones for the purpose of the practical assessment. This practical aspect of the course is fundamental in our training ethos of Learning by Doing.”

Carey added: “Over the last eight years, more than 100 of our staff have attended the line breaking training from TTS and the feedback we’ve received has been excellent. Candidates enjoy the mix of theoretical and practical assessments, particularly the training simulation rigs, as they can go onto the factory floor afterwards and put what they’ve learned into practice by doing risk assessments on pipework.”

The course itself includes a thorough review of the health and safety issues concerned with line breaking, with a particular emphasis on those fluids and gasses that are used in their own production environment. This includes discussions about pipework identification and marking schemes, isolation codes of practice in use at the plant, and how these compare to the latest Health & Safety codes of practice (HSG253).

The various methods of pipework isolation are then discussed and candidates are asked to prepare a safe method of work document for line breaking. The course then looks at some of the practical issues concerned with joining pipes together properly and tightening of flanged joints with even torque to ensure there are no pipe leaks.

As David Larner states: “The importance of using the correct tools is demonstrated in a torque exercise where we examine the effects of uneven tightness on flange joints. Candidates compare the results of using combination spanners, adjustable wrenches and torque wrenches.”

In order to stress the importance of best practice and planning of pipework isolations, various isolation rigs are used for the candidates to practice writing method statements for line breaking at various points on the rigs. Following this exercise, the candidates swap method statements with other groups and implement these to see if there have been any safety breaches. Padlocks, paperwork and testing are required to demonstrate best practice.

“Inevitably, candidates will discover that their method statements do not work out in practice, but this is an important learning outcome of the training course,” says Larner. “By making mistakes on the rigs and learning from these, a better understanding of the workplace issues is gained.”

At the end of the course, a separate knowledge-based assessment (multiple choice questions) is carried out to ensure that candidates have achieved the necessary understanding.

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