One of the phenomena’s that I have noted over the years is that plant startups inevitably run over into a holiday. This seems to be especially true of the Christmas holiday. Being onsite can be very demanding work but it is also very rewarding. Many of the problems that we must address in control design are best understood and remembered if you have struggled with the problem in the field. However, sending a person to the field who has no plant experience should be done with caution. One of the practices we like to follow is to match a person with no plant experience with one who has worked in industry for some time. In this way, the experience person can act as a guide for the inexperience person and help bring him or her up to speed by setting a good example.
When going onsite, I have found it is wise to always ask what clothing is appropriate. For example, in many plants there is a requirement for steel toe shoes. In most cases the plant will expect you to bring steel toed shoes with you. Often any other safety equipment, such as ear plug, hardhat, gas mask, eye protection will be supplied by the plant. If you will be entering an area of the plant that requires you to carry a gas mask, then the plant may have restrictions that require the face to be cleanly shaved i.e. no beard. In nearly all cases it will be necessary to go though plant safety training and to pass a safety test before being allowed to work in the plant.
Your contact at the plant will be responsible for guiding you into the process area(s) that are to be commissioned. He can also help establish and communicate the rule to follow when making a change that will impact plant operations. Normally all changes that impact the process will go through the operator since he is ultimately responsible for the process operation. In most cases I have found the operator to be extremely knowledgeable about the process. One of the biggest mistakes an onsite person can make is not to respect or work with the operator. The most successful startups are the result of a team effort that includes the operator.
When working at a plant site, you are the guest of the plant. As such there are rules that should be followed. Many of the things that should be considered when doing onsite work are discussed in the paper “A Guide For Doing Onsite Work”, Jean Gibbs, Steve Thorp, Bill Keels, Chemical Engineering, February, 1990. The authors of the paper have many years of plant experience. If you have no plant experience, then you may find this paper helpful in preparing for your first trip to the field.