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In spite of the advances in boilers and their supporting systems, accidents still occur, and most of them result from improper operating and maintenance practices. The best design and installation, along with all necessary safeties and interlocks, have no value if someone has bypassed those safety controls. Improperly or inadequately trained personnel might not realize the consequences of those actions, and the results can be disastrous.
Managers cannot assume operators and technicians will get the training they need on the job from more experienced operators. Training programs based on passing information from person to person assume those doing the training are properly trained themselves and that they have not picked up bad habits over the years. But even though these experienced technicians might have been trained properly years ago, it is common to find most have adapted procedures and shortcuts that make things run efficiently, even if the procedures are not completely by the book.
Going through training just once is not sufficient. Training must be ongoing. Operators must perform troubleshooting and emergency drills regularly to keep their skills sharp and to ensure poor procedures and practices have not crept in to the operation. They must practice even such routine tasks as starting up or shutting down a boiler and review the procedures regularly.
James Piper, P.E., is a national consultant based in Bowie, Md. He has more than 25 years of experience with facilities management and maintenance.
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