Safety First- SCBA Refresher

SRE’s conventional on-site SRU testing work almost always involves sour work. Whether analyzing SRU feed stream samples, which contain 98 percent H2S at several clients’ facilities in the Middle East, to lower ppm level streams downstream in the process, while the risks may not appear equal on the surface- the potentially fatal conclusion is common to each and every sour situation.

Conventional training and awareness programs teach us how to best mitigate the risks associated with H2S. Here, knowledge of wind direction and appropriate body positioning needs to be at the forefront when planning and executing sour-related work. Based on our vast experience, being on-site conducting SRU Performance Evaluations, air flow can be quite limited out in the unit. Furthermore, it seems counterintuitive, but it is important to always remember that it’s a ‘good’ thing if we can smell it! H2S impairs our ability to smell/detect as its concentration increases and, at that point, it is most likely already too late. For these reasons, at many facilities, sour work is left to SRE- the professionals.

As was highlighted in a previous SRE Newsletter, PPE is our last line of defense! It is important to ensure that proactive safety controls are also always in place. These can include: Administrative controls (safety training, worker rights, etc.); Engineering controls (signage, guard rails, etc.); and Plant-level protection (H2S detection, SCBA, etc.).

The focus for the remainder of this particular article is the importance of conducting periodic SCBA checks to serve as a personal refresher and to protect/provide learning opportunities for all stakeholders: your colleagues, site visitors, safety equipment providers, and yourself! Another thing that is guaranteed in this world- you never do know when you may be called into action. Whether doing rounds out in the plant or waiting at a traffic light, we need to ensure that we are always prepared!

About a year ago, an SRE team member was getting ready to conduct work at a Refinery in California. It really makes no difference here, but the SCBA’s were provided by an outside supplier. Upon thorough inspection, it was determined that the air line’s connection at the regulator was jeopardized. The important takeaway here is that the connection was indeed made; however, only by way of thorough inspection could one actually determine that the integrity of the connection was jeopardized. While the on-site work was delayed, having to wait for a new SCBA to be delivered, this find was truly invaluable!

For most, donning SCBA is not a routine, day-to-day activity. When was the last time that you donned SCBA? If it’s been a while, the following listing will serve as an excellent refresher and resource to ensure that this critical piece of safety equipment is truly ready to protect the lives of everyone, when called upon!

  • Check all of the SCBA-related straps to ensure no fraying (mask included)
  • Verify air lines and associated connections
  • Check the back plate to ensure no damage
  • Verify that the cylinder is properly tagged, full, has not expired, and in good condition
  • Mask up, confirm seal, and take a breath off of the cylinder
  • Are the cylinder and regulator pressures equal?
  • Verify the regulator’s by-pass mechanism
  • Confirm regulator alarm points by shutting in the cylinder and releasing the remaining air