Motion 3. Cost saving versus Risk

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2013 Water, Environment & Transport Service Group
15 February 2013

In these times of high energy costs water companies are embarking on initiatives to save money. This includes turning off sections of plant at times of the day when energy costs are highest. Because this at present tends to be for short periods after normal working hours the focus may be concentrated on how much operators will be paid rather than the health and safety impacts.

Presently the switch-off periods are short and dangers of gas build-ups and other risks unlikely. However these periods will become longer and more frequent in future as energy costs continue to rise and recycling initiatives level off because of pay back periods. A process that may be safe following an hour’s turn-off may not be safe after two hours.

Although many water companies have done this for years there is much more optimisation than ever before. Control rooms can now remotely turn off entire plants and not necessarily be aware electricians or maintenance may be working on site. Each process on every plant should be individually risk assessed. We need to work with our companies and risk assess each affected process at every affected plant and not settle for a generic risk assessment. No two assets are the same. We need a foolproof system so workers cannot be put at risk.

We would ask that the WET Executive and WISC highlight these issues so reps are forewarned and start looking at worst case scenarios now and work with our employers to put risk assessments in place whilst this is a minor health and safety issue and not be playing catch-up a few years from now when risks are greater.