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Working on heights- keeping costs under control

Cost savings without compromise to safety

To help manage the costs of Dow Terneuzen’s
maintenance operations, Applus RTD’s regional
manager Tonny van der Have and his team, together
with the Dow Maintenance organization, looked
at ways of eliminating the need for the costly
scaffolding traditionally used for carrying out
obligatory examinations of process piping. Applus
RTD and Dow Maintenance determined that the
actual checks generally involved straightforward
inspections for the collection of data, and these
could be easily, effectively and above all economically
carried out using rope access techniques.

Working together with rope access experts and
Applus RTD Offshore, in the summer of 2012 an
initial test operation was carried out involving
wall thickness measurements on spherical tanks,
using rope access techniques. This test was
followed in October of that year, by a test using
ultrasonics testing techniques for the wall thickness
measurements of hot process piping (up to 178ºC).
This time, the test involved a comparison. A few
months prior to this rope access operation, the
same wall thickness measurements were taken using
scaffolding. The results of the two tests were then
compared from different aspects, such as safety,
efficiency and cost impact.

According to Dow’s Jack van Bendegem
(Work Co-ordinator Ethylene 2) the
collaboration with Applus RTD and Height
Specialists was excellent, and the speed and
openness of making all requirements and
decisions known to all parties made a positive
impression. “The first steps towards achieving
a successful partnership between us were
the way that all aspects, both advantages and
disadvantages were discussed, together with
all timescales involved. Applus RTD was also
very pro-active in the way it worked with Height
Specialists to train its people so that they could
always meet our ever increasing demands”.

“The aim of making these pilot projects a
success has been achieved. Safety has been
improved through cutting working and process
times, there is less material transportation
in the plant, and no risk of falling scaffolding!
Costs have been reduced significantly and
rope access has demonstrated that it fits
within Dow Terneuzen’s aims of safer and
more cost-effective work”.

During the tests, safety played a key role. Not only was
there a Level 3 IRATA certified rope access operative
from Height Specialists present at all times, but also,
before any work was carried out, a comprehensive
Task Risk Analysis (TRA) was also discussed with
Operations, EH&S, Dow’s Maintenance Department
and those involved in the work.

During the tests in fact, one employee of the Applus
RTD team actually used the ‘Stop Work Authority’
process because he felt that he could not get to the
inspection area safely and without the risk of being
burned. The people involved from Dow Terneuzen were
pleased with this professional approach. In addition
to taking all measures necessary to ensure a safe
working environment, Dow’s EH&S Department is now
working on the development of a standardized TRA.

Big savings assured
Thanks to the good collaboration between all parties –
Dow Terneuzen Maintenance, Applus RTD, Height
Specialists and Kaefer BV (an insulation specialist) –
the use of rope access techniques has enabled a
saving of between 50% and 60% when compared to
traditional scaffolding operations! The success of
the operation has now led to Applus RTD’s south west
region having three Level 1 rope access specialists of
its own who have been trained by Height Specialists.
At the end of the year, they went into action on a
further project for Dow Terneuzen! Again, this was a
small test using guided waves pipeline inspection with
rope access techniques and a cherry picker, so the
need for scaffolding was avoided.

Looking ahead
Future plans include seeking new ways for rope
access operators to become even more efficient,
such as through courses at Applus RTD’s Training
and Education Department covering Visual
Inspector Level 2. With this added capability, the
operators can report direct, thus relieving Dow’s
inspectors of this work.
Thanks to the excellent levels of collaboration and
co-operation, Dow Terneuzen has been able to achieve
significant savings in its maintenance budget...
without compromise to safety or the quality of the
work carried out.

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