Should I Hire a Contractor or Keep it In-House? | Part 1: Introduction


Eli Macha presented a technical paper at the 2021 RETA National Conference titled IIAR 6: Should I Hire a Contractor or Keep it In-House? This blog series includes excerpts from his technical paper.

One of the most common questions posed to process safety consultants is, “Do I need to hire a contractor?” This [blog series] seeks to demonstrate how the inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements of ANSI/IIAR 6-2019 (IIAR 6) can be satisfied with varying contractor philosophies and methodologies. By observing best practices in the industry, a few actionable recommendations will be provided. While there are a variety of methods for adhering to IIAR 6, there are two practices in the industry which are nearly universal: daily rounds are completed in-house, and annual inspections and tests are outsourced. Beyond these consensus items, additional trends are identifiable for various mechanical integrity activities based on system complexity and other variables. Finally, key insights are presented regarding hiring ammonia operators and contractors. 

IIAR 6 is enormously helpful to businesses wanting to know the minimum maintenance standards for their ammonia refrigeration systems. The constantly shifting regulatory target has slowed to a crawl and those in our industry have more clarity on what inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) tasks are required to stay safe and compliant. Unfortunately, having clarity on what ITM tasks are required does not necessarily make implementation any less daunting. If a facility has not yet compared their mechanical integrity program to the standards prescribed by IIAR 6, they ought to do so immediately.

Hundreds of ITM tasks are required by IIAR 6, and the average end-user struggles to understand the breadth of activities. This confusion presents two pitfalls for businesses: using contractors as little as possible or being over-reliant on contractors. While some large facilities may be able to implement their mechanical integrity program solely with their own technicians, and some small facilities may be able to hire a contractor to implement their entire program, most facilities must strike a balance.

This [blog series] seeks to help end-users in the ammonia refrigeration industry implement their mechanical integrity program in accordance with IIAR 6. While businesses are concerned with keeping their systems safe, they must simultaneously consider how they can best optimize their maintenance budget. The two biggest factors affecting the use of contractors are employees and expenses. Outsourcing work is costly, but so is hiring, training, and keeping qualified refrigeration personnel. The costs associated with each strategy will be considered, taking into account the myriad challenges facing various industries using ammonia refrigeration systems. Surveys from ammonia refrigeration end-users were used to aid in this research. A small amount of anecdotal evidence will be used to explain the results of these surveys. The result of this research will help readers understand how to optimize a mechanical integrity program between in-house operators and refrigeration contractors.

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