Some jobs are inherently dangerous, and there might not be anything you can do to remove the dangerous elements. Those who work in manufacturing, chemical processing plants, or oil and gas refineries, understand that.
Start with a Facility Siting Study
A facility siting study, as part of your process hazard analysis, will give you a clear picture of all of the potential hazards on your site. You may have overpressure maps of a calculated explosion, and the report might give you an idea of what could happen to your current buildings in the event of a disaster.
What do you do now?
There will be several ways to mitigate the hazards identified in the report. All mitigation options will have their pros and cons, depending on your site, your hazards and your specific needs.
In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of blast-resistant modular buildings, which are one possible mitigation option for occupied buildings in a hazardous area. You may also want to consider other options, like blast-retrofitting existing buildings, or locating your buildings outside of the hazardous areas of your site. We pride ourselves on our knowledge of safety and blast resistance, and we share that whenever we can.
Benefits of Using Blast-Resistant Modular Buildings in a Hazardous Work Site
1. Staff, Equipment, and Assets are Protected During a Catastrophic Event
The most obvious benefit of using blast-resistant modules, or BRMs, is that they are built to withstand the devastating damage that is often the result of an explosion. The people, equipment, and assets inside of the buildings will be protected.
The level of damage is all dependent on the blast rating and the building’s proximity to the hazard. If you work in a classified area, in a building with a low to medium response (which means it would sustain low to medium damage), your chances of survival are much higher than something like the trailers that are commonly used on some worksites.
2. Reduce Liability, Increase Peace of Mind
When the risks to human life are decreased, the amount of liability is also reduced. For every significant blast event that has occurred, when there were numerous fatalities or injuries, the investigation to determine cause and fault begins almost immediately.
Though some incidents are unavoidable, families of those who were injured or died want to know that the company who employed their loved one did everything possible to protect them.
Including blast-resistant buildings as safe havens or shelters-in-place can give those who work in hazardous areas some peace of mind, and should a catastrophic event happen, can reduce the liability of the company, since it took measures to keep its workforce safe.
3. Reduce Time Lost to Retrieve Tools or Other Equipment
When you put people in blast-resistant buildings, you will save the lives of the people inside if or when an explosion happens. However, another benefit of blast-resistant buildings that's often overlooked is the amount of time, and therefore money, that you will save by storing equipment and tools in blast-resistant tool cribs, inside the hazardous area.
Some refinery sites are huge. Sometimes the time required to get into and out of the classified area involves checking in and out, and even arranged transportation.
When you store tools and equipment outside of the blast zone in order to keep them safe, employees must make a trip each time a specific piece of equipment must be used or checked out. It’s when you begin to calculate the amount of time spent going back and forth to retrieve tools that you realize the benefit of just keeping those tools closer. Depending on the size of the workforce, the lost time savings could be huge. The amount of time saved over time might even pay for the cost of the blast-resistant building.
4. Reduce the Amount of Time Exposed to Hazards
It goes hand in hand with reducing time and therefore money, that each time a worker must travel across a worksite to retrieve a tool, they are spending time exposed to hazards.
Reducing the amount of travel time reduces the time that the workforce is exposed to risks.
5. Flexibility and Modifications
Modular buildings are easy to modify. If the process area changes after five years, and your facility siting study now shows that the blast zone has changed, you may need to modify existing buildings in order to provide protection.
If your building is a multi-section, this might be a matter of adding additional sections. Alternatively, you may choose to use the existing building and add more buildings to accommodate your need. Modular buildings can even be stacked to save space.
Traditional buildings are permanent structures. Modular buildings, on the other hand, and specifically blast-resistant modular buildings, are built with the knowledge that the ability to move it after it’s been placed on a work site is of great benefit.
A building may need to be moved to accommodate a facility’s turnaround schedule. A blast-resistant module can be placed on a site to provide shelter for more people during a turnaround, and then removed once the turnaround is complete and the plant returns to its regular operating schedule.
Most oil and gas facilities go through turnarounds every three to five years. Having a permanent structure that is only at peak usage during a turnaround is not economically feasible. Blast-resistant modules can be moved to a different part of a plant to be used elsewhere, or to a completely different location altogether, perhaps for a different turnaround.
The relocation of buildings is also desirable when an area becomes more densely populated. A population swell makes the environment for the production of oil less safe, both due to natural disasters and the possibility of chemicals in highly populated areas. Many refineries choose to move when the population grows. The ability to transfer the buildings during the move can save millions of dollars in buildings that would otherwise have to be purchased again.
7. Built Offsite
When a structure is mobile, in addition to the benefits listed above, that also means it can be manufactured off-site and then transferred to the worksite and assembled.
Compared to an on-site, traditional build, where the location will be out of commission for weeks at a time, there will be fewer restrictions on the use of the area since it won’t be tied up in construction for as long. In a traditional build, you may go through a multitude of steps, like:
- Site preparation/grading
- Construction, including windows, doors, masonry, etc
- Roughing the electrical, plumbing and HVAC
- Finishing the interior walls
- Trimming/painting the exterior
- Installation of interior elements like cabinets or workspaces
- Installation of flooring
- Finishing electrical, plumbing and HVAC
- Connection to water, sewer or other services
In comparison, the vast majority of the work on a blast-resistant modular building is done before the building leaves the production center. When it arrives on site, the "to-do" list will look more like this:
- Site prep (done before the building arrives)
- Foundation (done before the building arrives)
- External finish of the structure (including welds, if the building is multi-section)
- Finishing electrical, plumbing and HVAC
- Connection to water, sewer or other services.
In addition, the process itself is safer, since the skilled labor constructing the building will need to be in a hazardous area for only the amount of time it takes to install it.
With a blast-resistant modular building, all of the time-consuming construction is accomplished beforehand, and then once the building is placed, it can be connected to plumbing and electrical, with the majority of the technical work having already been completed.
Final Thoughts on the Advantages of Blast-Resistant Buildings
Now that you know the benefits of blast-resistant buildings, hopefully you will be able to make a more informed decision about mitigation options for the hazardous areas on your facility.
If the protection of a blast-resistant building, coupled with the reduced installation times, mobility, and the general flexibility of a modular building are something that fit into your needs, then it’s time to choose a supplier. If you've done your due diligence and want to get started right away, contact RedGuard.
RedGuard’s subject matter experts have been helping companies create safe spaces since 2005. If you need more help with that decision, read up on choosing a BRB supplier.
For more information, or to troubleshoot your current needs, get in touch with us. By working together early in the process, RedGuard can help you get the buildings you need in the most economically efficient way possible.
To continue your education on blast-resistant buildings, read more about some of the industry jargon and terminology behind blast-resistant buildings.