A facility siting study analyzes the strength of buildings on the premises and their ability to protect occupants in the event of a fire or explosion. It is one of the components of process hazard analysis (PHA) outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
To ensure the safety and efficiency of a facility, it is recommended to conduct a facility siting study every five years to assess the potential risks and hazards associated with the facility's location. Think of it as the equivalent of an individual going in for a medical check-up. Instead of waiting to visit a doctor when you feel sick, you can be proactive and go in for a health check. The doctor would ask you a few questions first and then carry out a series of tests to see for themselves whether everything is working as it should.
Similarly, a facility siting study evaluates the premises as a comprehensive unit, identifying risks of explosion, fire, or chemical leaks and their effect on the structures. Again, the aim is to provide as much protection to the employees working in those buildings as possible.
The success of the study depends on the information you give the analysts, such as customer/site information, like process flow diagrams, piping and instrument diagrams, site plans, process descriptions, and emergency response procedures. The more accurate your information, the smoother the process and the more relevant their recommendations.
wHat to expect
Imagine that you've gone to your doctor for your annual check-up. First, you and the doctor have a little chat. Then, they’ll ask a series of questions based on your health history and ask about your daily habits. If you’ve revealed a family history of heart disease, and you’ve reached an age where that is a concern, your doctor may put you through a stress test.
The same principle applies here. The engineers you entrust with this study will ask you for documentation to help them understand your processes and identify high-risk areas. Some companies will even provide checklists to help you prepare for a facility siting study.
The analysts will tell you what information they need to conduct the study. Providing updated documentation improves the accuracy of the assessment. Once they have gone through the documentation, they will visit your facility and take a site walk.
Prepare a List of Questions
Even though the engineers doing the study are experts in their own right, they are still visitors to your premises. You need to know what they will do on the premises, the tools they will use, and areas they need to access to prepare adequately. Do they have the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), or will you provide it? Are there tools or equipment they will use that could affect your processes? Are there areas listed that require special access? It is best not to make assumptions.
The Site Walk
When you tell your doctor that you're feeling pretty good, they don't just take your word for it. Instead, the doctor observes the way your body functions, the same way we would be observing the processes onsite. The analysts will do the same with your plant. Once they have gone through the site map, diagrams, and lists you provided, they will visit the facility.
As they walk through your facility, they will identify hazards and make inquiries that may have gone unnoticed in a pure documentation exercise. Naturally, they'll need a guide to navigate the plant and answer questions. Appoint a technician to accompany the consultants. Select someone with in-depth knowledge of your processes and safety procedures implemented at the plant.
The facility site study is similar to a manufacturing process. Quality inputs lead to quality outputs. By choosing the right engineers and providing the required documentation, you can reap the benefits of the resulting reports.