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Products and solutions, 2008-04-18, 11:00 AM

Playing safe

Total occupational safety is the aim during the construction of a new polyethylene plant at the Gelsenkirchen site of Sabic Polyolefine GmbH. Construction, which is taking place in close proximity to ongoing petrochemical production, is to proceed without any accidents or other safety-related incidents. Obviously, therefore, safety enjoys absolute top priority during scaffold erection.

Total occupational safety is the aim during the construction of a new polyethylene plant at the Gelsenkirchen site of Sabic Polyolefine GmbH. Construction, which is taking place in close proximity to ongoing petrochemical production, is to proceed without any accidents or other safety-related incidents. Obviously, therefore, safety enjoys absolute top priority during scaffold erection.

The installation for the production of high-grade plastic granulate for tubes, bottles and films has been designed by Uhde GmbH, which is also in charge of construction. The contract for the punctual erection of the technically sophisticated scaffold structures was awarded to ThyssenKrupp Xervon GmbH. Over a period of about a year, the scaffold experts will initially serve the steel erectors and pipe fitters, and later the insulators and corrosion protectors, with special-purpose scaffolds of all kinds until next summer. A key factor in the award of the complete package of scaffold erection work to Xervon, Project Manager Andreas Mösken explains, was not only the Company's scaffolding expertise, for he also succeeded in impressively demonstrating to the client the huge importance that is always attached to occupational safety at Xervon: "We take great care that we ourselves and our staff are always kept up-to-date technically and safety-wise with ongoing further training."

The scaffold erectors from Gelsenkirchen can claim a long list of successful scaffold erection projects in chemical, petrochemical and other safety-sensitive industrial installations including power plants. All the same, no two projects are alike in terms of their conditions and challenges. At the Sabic site in Gelsenkirchen, the expectation of an immaculate job of work is accompanied by the demand for the strict observance of all the given occupational safety and health regulations.

Risk analysis before each job

For example, the scaffold erectors are obliged to wear their personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. This consists of fireproof clothing, helmet, goggles, safety harness, gloves and shoes. And that's not all. At least once per day, each scaffold erector carries out a risk analysis for his workplace before starting work. At this Pre-Task Meeting, all the fitters fill out a checklist designed to draw their attention to possible risk areas during the job in hand. Questions like "Is it possible that your scaffold erection work may be impeded by other trades?" and "Are you wearing your personal protective clothing?" ensure that work only starts when every potential hazard has been truly eliminated. On the very first scaffold (for concreting work on building columns), for instance, a barrier had to be initially erected to protect the pipe fitters working adjacently from injury from any falling scaffold components.

As soon as an employee changes his workplace and, for example, a new scaffold is erected six meters further on, a new PTM becomes due. All the same, strict safety procedures are by no means unfamiliar to these practiced scaffold erectors. All of them have already worked in the Sabic production plant next door or gathered experience in other chemical or petrochemical installations.

Only five percent standard

Along with the strict safety standards, the scaffold erectors also have to react extremely flexibly to the needs of the other trades involved in the construction project. Standing, suspended and protective scaffolds of all kinds are required. 26 meters is the average height of the plant components of the new production installation, and the tallest unit reaches 46 meters into the sky. Although only few of the required scaffold structures are so exceptional that they call for separate, external calculations of structural strength, about 95 percent of the scaffolds are special-purpose and as such unique. As always with a petrochemical plant, they have to be erected extremely quickly and in confined space. These are scaffolding tasks that the experienced Xervon specialists are capable of performing with ease.

What are important above all are constant consultations with the other trades. This involves working on call when a scaffold has to be modified at short notice and adapting plans, i.e. when which trade needs a new scaffold where, to current project progress. This fine planning is constantly updated by the two Xervon agents André Arnholdt and Thomas Jacobs so that sufficient materials and manpower are available on site at all times. The currently 12-strong team will be expanded to up to 25 men at peak times when the pipe fitters following the steel erectors move into gear. An estimated 400 metric tons of scaffold materials (modular scaffolds and system-independent lattice girders, tubes and couplers) will then be in use on the site.

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