One constant in every process plant is the high number and diversity of valves that control the flow of feedstock, products and service liquids and gases. The ergonomic issues associated with the design, operation and maintenance of valves include:

  • Physical stress to open and close them

  • Potential for injuries and subsequent related costs

  • Lack of access to process critical valves

  • Difficulty to remove and replace them

  • Potential for process upsets when valves cannot be operated in the time required

A comprehensive program was developed for a major US refinery to assess the musculoskeletal risk associated with manually operated valves, then to rank each valve according to the risk each poses to plant operators and maintenance technicians.

Clearly, valve repair and replacement is expensive. So, the cost-effective approach was to assess only those valves that are critical to plant operation.

Analysis summaries and recommendations for improvement were provided to plant management for the top fifteen high-risk valves. Examples of recommendations are provided herein. It was also recommended that as the valves are repaired, modified or replaced, the assessment process is repeated to demonstrate how much musculoskeletal risk is reduced.

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