How obsolete spare parts contribute to workers’ safety

Using obsolete spare parts instead of replacing the entire machine has been well-documented for its effectiveness and compliance. However, businesses in this sector often fail to prioritise the safety of their employees. Part failure can lead to unforeseen end results and create unsafe work environments.

A Senseye report found that among the Fortune 500 Global list, oil and gas companies lose $46 billion a year. Unplanned manufacturing downtime is the cause of this annual loss. This figure paints a concerning picture for larger corporations.

However, the impact on smaller chemical processing companies can be even more adverse. These effects include repair costs, lost production, quality assurance (QA) issues, and contractual compensation.

Minimising Manufacturing Downtime While Prioritising Worker and Chemical Plant Safety

When investing in new machinery parts, it's important to take into consideration the potential added costs. While new parts can be cheaper than obsolete spare parts initially, their compatibility with legacy equipment could be a concern. The integration of these parts might require changes or adjustments that inadvertently introduce new vulnerabilities to the system. In the long run, this could make the original cost savings ineffective and lead to further expenses down the line.

It's important to conduct an in-depth cost-benefit analysis of both obsolete and new parts. This should take into account the initial purchase price as well as any potential compatibility issues. This will help in making an overall, informed decision on what to purchase.

Within the chemical processing industry, the failure of a part is a major cause for concern. This is because of the presence of hazardous substances in high-pressure environments. Even a minor malfunction can trigger a chain reaction, leading to the release of toxic materials, fires, and explosions.

A prime example of this is when a 2,500-gallon tank of sulfuric acid spilled at a Shell cracker plant in Pennsylvania, USA. An individual flange valve that had failed was the root cause of this incident. This event highlights the potential consequences of part failure in the chemical processing industry.
 

In a chemical processing plant, the failure of a single part can set off a chain of events that destroy the whole system. This cascading chain reaction can cause extensive damage to interconnected machinery, stopping whole production lines from working.

Also, these incidents pose a great threat to the safety of workers and the maintenance team responsible for repairs. Workers tasked with repairs require specific PPE to lower the risks from exposure to hazardous substances. Even though these extra steps are necessary for safety, they raise costs and prolong manufacturing downtime.

It is well known that single parts can cause incidents in the chemical processing industry, leading to a risk to chemical plant safety. Studies have shown that piping failures alone account for roughly one-third of all equipment malfunctions. A staggering one-third of these further escalate into fire and explosion incidents.

Therefore, it is vital to closely monitor ageing equipment with great care. Identifying and addressing potential issues early can prevent them from escalating into critical failures.

Sourcing obsolete parts can ensure ease of replacement for equipment with high failure potential. This can help avoid the need for system-wide replacements and further downtime. Eventually, this will reduce manufacturing losses and ensure worker safety.

How to improve worker safety with compliance

There are strict rules that the chemical processing industry has to abide by. The 2015 Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (COMAH) are a prime example of this. Because of the strong focus on safety, companies need to test equipment often, which can make repairs much more expensive.

Sourcing obsolete spare parts

When legacy equipment fails and a new part is installed, the equipment will need retesting and recertification to ensure compliance. If the rest of the system needs adapting, the whole production line will need retesting as well. This rigorous testing process, while essential for safety, can lead to notable manufacturing downtime and high costs. In such situations, readily available and compatible obsolete parts can offer help.

Obsolete parts are those that are no longer produced by the manufacturer. These can come in various forms, including second-hand parts or refurbished used parts. Such parts can help reduce manufacturing downtime in the chemical processing industry. This is because they are identical to the failed part and are already compliant with regulations.

EU Automation

However, sourcing obsolete parts that are unused can be a challenge because of their inherent rarity. This is where purchasing from reputable providers like EU Automation ensures access to obsolete spare parts from major automation suppliers. Such as Omron, Mitsubishi, Indramat, and Siemens. EU Automation supplies globally, usually with same-day delivery and a full one-year warranty on all products.

It is possible for manufacturers to receive obsolete parts in a timely manner, thereby reducing downtime. This aids in the maintenance of system compliance.

Therefore, they free manufacturers from the need to alter their systems. This allows them to operate without interruption. This is why chemical makers find them to be a cost-effective and advantageous choice.

Warrantied obsolete spare parts offer a sense of security to manufacturers, as failure is unlikely. This translates to the safety of workers, which has been an overlooked priority in the industry. Prioritising a safe place of work isn't just an ethical obligation; it's a strategic decision with tangible benefits. Ensuring a safe environment is crucial for protecting workers' well-being and preventing costly accidents.

Also, the benefits of a safe environment extend beyond immediate financial concerns. It also plays a key role in promoting the longevity of their machinery.

Correctly operating and maintaining equipment in a safe space reduces wear and tear. This leads to a longer lifespan and a reduced need for replacements. This translates to cost savings in the long run and contributes to the overall sustainability of the company's operations.

Ultimately, a responsible strategy that prioritises both compliance and worker safety can create a win-win situation for chemical processing companies.  Using obsolete spare parts when necessary can help strike a balance between efficient operations, minimising downtime, and safeguarding employee well-being.


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