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What You Need for a Safe and Successful Oil Refinery Turnaround

January 25th 2023

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Follow these recommendations to improve safety and efficiency.



Oil refinery turnarounds are complex. Workers must complete a huge number of tasks in a short time — preventive maintenance, inspections, testing, retrofitting, repairs, replacements and more. Considering the scope, it’s no surprise that turnarounds take months, or even years, to prepare properly.

An oil refinery turnaround (often referred to as a TAR) involves many workers carrying out potentially hazardous activities.

Some safety challenges include:

  • Bringing in a large external workforce
  • Managing specialized personnel and equipment
  • Conducting non-routine procedures
  • Addressing unexpected issues

To create an injury-free environment it’s wise to stay vigilant and have the right resources in place. Let’s explore the essential safety components of a successful turnaround.

A Qualified Safety Team

The best safety teams have a combination of real-life experience and up-to-date qualifications. During an oil refinery turnaround, you’ll need workers with specific skills, such as turnaround safety, breathing air, gas detection, confined space rescue, communications, permit writing and technology solutions.

Involving a safety contractor early in the project lets you benefit from their knowledge and experience during the planning stage.

Code Red provides turnkey turnaround services for the oil & gas industry, including certified safety staffing, air solutions and rescue teams.


A Comprehensive TAR Schedule

Turnaround scheduling is multifaceted — a turnaround should be short to minimize lost revenue. But the schedule must also be long enough to accomplish the tasks without causing workers to rush, sacrificing safety. Creating a realistic plan is crucial.

Plan to be flexible

Identify deliverables and requirements that can be deferred (or removed) from the scope without affecting the success of the TAR. Knowing this helps avoid scheduling pressure if things fall behind, as you can confidently sacrifice the identified tasks to regain time.

Allow for contingency

Add a buffer of extra time for completing critical paths, major milestones or project phases. It is always smart to leave room in the schedule for the unexpected. For example:

  • Common equipment problems like failing on startup
  • Lost time due to incidents
  • Discovering parts that need replacement, not maintenance
  • Accidental damage

A Site-Specific Safety Plan

Safety is a top priority during an oil refinery turnaround. However, ensuring safety is difficult due to the sheer number of tasks and the presence of so many contractors.

Some up-front considerations include:

Personnel Management – During the turnaround, some contractors are likely to be unfamiliar with your company’s safety standards and oil refinery hazards. Enhance the on-site signage and provide opportunities for site-specific training.

Confined Space Monitoring – TAR tasks require entering spaces like tanks or vessels. Provide workers with the best confined space technology and OSHA-required safety equipment. Ensure they’re fully supported and qualified to carry out their assigned activities.

Chemical Exposure – Mitigate the risk of exposure to benzene, nitrogen and other dangerous gases with safety procedures and portable gas monitors.

Up-front hazard identification is key during a turnaround. An experienced safety contractor can lend their industry knowledge to assess the turnaround plan. During a TAR, they can also use their good judgment to make decisions in the field, addressing situations in real time.

A Source for Turnaround Resources

The proper resources, including communication and safety equipment, are critical for a successful turnaround. Resources that support a safe oil refinery turnaround include:

  • Breathing Air Solutions – Keep workers safe from harmful gases
  • Fall Protection – Provide assurance to those working at height
  • Respiratory Protection – Equipment for staff working in low oxygen or hazardous environments
  • Gas Detection – Alert on-site personnel to leaking gases before they can do harm
  • PPE – Ensure a supply of approved PPE for staff and contractors
  • Radio – Communication during turnarounds is essential; it must be frequent and clear


Oil Refinery Turnaround Solutions by Code Red


Managing a turnaround is a necessary — and challenging — endeavor. You can promote safety success with a qualified team through planning, adaptable procedures and proper resources.

At Code Red Safety, we have over 25 years of experience supporting industrial turnarounds. Our experts work with you throughout the entire turnaround process, from planning to execution to close out.

Contact us