15 Power Plant Safety Tips

(Excerpted from Steam/its generation and use, 42nd edition)

B&W values the health and safety of each employee and will never be satisfied until the workplace is free of accidents and injuries. In fact, it is one of our core values upon which we base our entire company. Our focus on safety extends to our customers, contractors, suppliers, and all those who we interact with, whether on a job site, in a manufacturing facility, or even in an office setting.

15 Safety Tips
The following article identifies safety precautions individuals should follow when working in or near a boiler or other equipment found at power plants.

Operating instructions usually deal primarily with the protection of equipment. Rules and devices for personnel protection are also essential, regardless of the type of boiler design or fuel. Safety training programs and written safety procedures are integral to the safe operation of all plant equipment. While not exhaustive, the items listed here are based on actual operating experience and point out some typical personnel safety precautions.


  1. When viewing flames or furnace conditions, always wear tinted goggles or a tinted shield to protect the eyes from harmful light intensity and flying ash or slag particles.

  2. Do not stand directly in front of open ports or doors, especially when they are being opened. Furnace pulsations caused by firing conditions, sootblower operation, or tube failure can blow hot furnace gases out of open doors, even on balanced draft units. Aspirating air is used on inspection doors and ports of pressure-fired units to prevent the escape of hot furnace gases. The aspirating jets can become blocked, or the aspirating air supply can fail. In some cases, the entire observation port or door can be covered with slag, causing the aspirating air to blast slag and ash out into the boiler room.

  3. Do not use open-ended pipes for rodding observation ports or slag on furnace walls. Hot gases can be discharged through the open-ended pipe directly onto its handler. The pipe can also become excessively hot.

  4. When handling any type of rod or probe in the furnace, especially in coal-fired furnaces, be prepared for falling slag striking the rod or probe. The fulcrum action can inflict severe injuries.

  5. Be prepared for slag leaks. Iron oxides in coal can be reduced to molten iron or iron sulfides in a reducing atmosphere in the furnace resulting from combustion with insufficient air. This molten iron can wash away refractory, seals and tubes, and leak out onto equipment or personnel.

  6. Never enter a vessel, especially a boiler drum, until all steam and water valves, including drain and blowdown valves, have been closed and locked or tagged. It is possible for steam and hot water to back up through drain and blowdown piping, especially when more than one boiler or vessel is connected to the same drain or blowdown tank.

  7. Be prepared for hot water in drums and headers when removing manhole plates and handhole covers.

  8. Do not enter a confined space until it has been cooled, purged of combustible and dangerous gases and properly ventilated with precautions taken to keep the entrance open. Station a worker at the entrance and notify the responsible person.

  9. Be prepared for falling slag and dust when entering the boiler setting or ash pit.

  10. Use low voltage extension cords or cords with ground fault interrupters. Bulbs on extension cords and flashlights should be explosion proof.

  11. Never step into fly ash. It can be cold on the surface yet remain hot and smoldering underneath for extended periods, even after the pressure parts are cool.

  12. Never use toxic or volatile fluids in confined spaces.

  13. Never open or enter rotating equipment until it has come to a complete stop and its circuit breaker is locked open and any other drive devices are immobilized. Some types of rotating equipment can be set into motion with very little force. These types should be locked with a brake or other suitable device to prevent rotation.

  14. Always secure the drive mechanism of dampers, gates and doors before passing through them.

  15. Do not inspect for tube leak locations until metal and refractory surfaces are cool, and ash accumulations are removed.