Logbooks. How Important Are They?

Logbooks. How important are they?

I recently had the opportunity to conduct an investigation into a boiler furnace explosion incident that occurred in a large facility. The incident had occurred several weeks before I was called to conduct this investigation so it was not possible to see with my own eyes the results of the explosion and get first hand information as well as very fresh eyewitness accounts.

The first task in any incident investigation is to interview the persons directly involved, their supervisors and anyone else who may have had the opportunity to witness the event or have first hand information that would be valuable. Once that is accomplished the next step is to examine all possible data logs, computerised historical information and the engineers logbooks and compare notes and try to piece together a timeline.

Once the interviews were completed and I had sufficient information and computer data on my investigation chart I asked to examine the official logbooks. It was not much of a surprise that once I started that process I discovered that much of the information collected and data did not quite match the logbook recorded information. Once again, I found myself reading a logbook with many errors with respect to event times, poorly written sentences and in most cases lack of very important relevant information that could have helped us put the puzzle pieces together.

The objective of any investigation is to discover what actually happened and take remedial action, whatever that action may be to ensure that such an incident does not happen again. Safety is the primary reason why power engineers are required to be on shift of certain types and sizes of plants and a very important and critical part of their duties is to ensure the reporting of all events no matter how “routine” or “daily” they may be during their 8 or 12 hour shift. Unfortunately, most engineers have had little or no training in reporting and recording information in a proper and well documented manner. It is only during the last several years that extra effort and emphasis has been put into that area of study by the SOPEEC in Canada and the new textbooks are providing some much needed guidance and recommended practices in administrative areas of power engineering and that includes some good suggestions with respect to logbook maintenance and recording.

Here are some of our recommendations and advice that you may find helpful in ensuring good quality information is gathered and recorded in the logbooks and in the plant files.

  1. Logbooks must be “hard bound” and all the pages must be either “dated” or numbered.
  2. Logbooks must be kept in a clean and safe location in the engineer’s office.
  3. It is illegal to have logbook pages missing or torn.
  4. All logbooks must be kept for at least seven (7) years on site in the chief engineer’s office or other safe location.
  5. Logbooks can be separated into operating logs and maintenance logs if so desired.
  6. All persons who write in the logbook must have their full name printed in capital letters and a sample of their signature and initials on the inside cover of the logbook.
  7. Every person who writes in the logbook must either sign or initial their recorded information at the end of their shift. No space should be permitted between their signature and the end of the page or portion of the page dedicated to their shift.
  8. The chief engineer or person in charge of the plant must either sign or initial every page at the end of each day to indicate that he/she has read the logbook. The chief engineer may issue orders and make notes or indicate a place where orders may be found with respect to anything that is recorded in the logbook.
  9. The only information recorded in the logbook must be;
    1. Operational details of work and equipment status.
    2. Maintenance to any equipment that are part of the plant.
    3. Emergencies.
    4. Repairs.
    5. Incidents.
    6. Work done or work in progress.
    7. Notification of outstanding issues at hand.
    8. Expected operational matters.
    9. Tests, inspections, audits, emergencies.
    10. Lock-outs, tag-outs, equipment stand by or equipment under repair.
    11. Contractors on site, visitors, security and others in or about the plant premises.
    12. Attach sketches or other relevant information that may help in the details of your reporting.
    13. If external contractors are on site ensure to record all of their names and trade and the reason of their presence in the plant.
    14. Ensure that all permit numbers are recorded particularly with respect to boiler and pressure vessel repairs, installations, welding, testing, gas work, safety devices, controls and instrumentation.
    15. Ensure that no UNAUTHORISED persons are permitted on plant premises and record any such event if you are unsure of someone’s function.
    16. Communicate all your reporting verbally to the next shift engineer or advise them to read the logbook before they take over their shift.
  10. It absolutely forbidden to write foul and abusive language in the logbook and it is unethical to conduct personal vendettas and record any information detrimental to the integrity and good conduct of persons in the plant.

Naturally, many of you will find other matters that you think should be recorded in the logbooks and I am certain that we have likely left out items that you normally record in your present day plant operation.

The main theme of this essay is to ensure that logbooks are properly kept and the information in the logbooks are clear, precise and will contribute in the excellence of safe and effective plant operation by keeping good and valuable information that may be found to be very useful some day when you least expect it.