When presented the opportunity to author the Safety Zone column inProcess Heatingmagazine, my first move was to check out just how the subject matter regarding safety is covered in the process heating arena. What I noticed most is that the word "safety" seldom is used as a noun but rather as an adjective modifying the word "training." Let's face it, safety and training go hand in hand.

That got me to thinking about our economy and how it has affected the safety manager's job and its necessity. Many companies are forced to eliminate their safety training personnel now when it is needed the most.

To see if I was on track in my thinking, I contacted Ted Jablkowski, P.E., eastern regional manager at Cleveland-based North American Mfg. Co. Ltd. Ted is a principal member of NFPA 86 Technical Committee and a member of Industrial Heating Equipment Association's (IHEA) Safety Standards and Codes Committee. Needless to say, I respect his opinions.

Ted has a lot to offer on the safety subject, and my first question garnered quite a response from him. Because I think all of what he has to say is important, I will run his responses to the remainder of my questions in the next issue. For now, here is my first question and part of Ted's answer.

PH: How important is safety training?

TJ: Training in the proper operation of combustion equipment is of critical importance to the safety of the plant staff, the surrounding community and the health of the company. NFPA standards and codes emphasize the importance of regularly scheduled retraining as a key component in the safe operation of ovens and furnaces. NFPA 86 Standard for Ovens and Furnaces, along with NFPA 86C Standard for Industrial Furnaces Using a Special Processing Atmosphere and NFPA 86D Standard for Industrial Furnaces Using Vacuum as an Atmosphere, provide minimum guidelines for the majority of industrial heating equipment used.

The foreword of NFPA 86 states:

Explosions and fires in fuel-fired and electric heat utilization equipment constitute a loss potential in life, property and production. This standard is a compilation of guidelines, rules, and methods applicable to the safe operation of this type of equipment.

There are other conditions and regulations not covered in this standard, such as toxic vapors; hazardous materials; noise levels; heat stress; and local, state, and federal regulations (EPA and OSHA) that should be considered when designing and operating furnaces.

Causes of practically all failures can be traced to human error. The most significant failures include inadequate training of operators, lack of proper maintenance, and improper application of equipment.

The NFPA 86 Standard for Ovens and Furnaces further prescribes the minimum requirements for operator training as follows:

1-5 Operator and Maintenance Personnel Training

1-5.1 All operating, maintenance and appropriate supervisory personnel shall be thoroughly instructed and trained under the direction of a qualified person(s) and shall be required to demonstrate understanding of the equipment and its operation to ensure knowledge of and practice of safe operating procedures.

1-5.2 All operating, maintenance and appropriate supervisory personnel shall receive regularly scheduled retraining and testing to maintain a high level of proficiency and effectiveness.

1-5.3 Personnel shall have access to operating instructions at all times.

1-5.4 Operator training shall include the following, where applicable:
(1) Combustion of fuel-air mixtures
(2) Explosion hazards
(3) Sources of ignition, including autoignition (e.g., by incandescent surfaces)
(4) Functions of control and safety devices
(5) Handling of special atmospheres
(6) Handling of low-oxygen atmospheres
(7) Handling and processing of hazardous materials
(8) Confined space entry procedures
(9) Operating instructions (see 1-5.5 )

1-5.5 Operating instructions shall be provided by the equipment manufacturer and shall include all of the following:
(1) Schematic piping and wiring diagrams
(2) Startup procedures
(3) Shutdown procedures
(4) Emergency procedures, including those occasioned by loss of special atmospheres, electric power, inert gas, or other essential utilities
(5) Maintenance procedures

Next month, Ted will continue to outline the standard's requirements. He also will discuss the complications that can arise when safety training is cut back or eliminated as well as what companies can do to make it through these tough times and what they should guard against.