PV design for ESH: Identify issues early

by Andy McIntyre, executive VP/managing principal/cofounder, and Patrick Tierney, principal consultant, Environmental and Occupational Risk Management (EORM)

As the photovoltaic (PV) industry selects equipment to support R&D and production operations, capital equipment suppliers building tools for the PV industry have an obligation to design and deliver safe and reliable process equipment that minimizes the potential to cause injury, meets current environmental requirements, and prevents worker health issues.

Capital equipment suppliers employing a Design for Environmental Safety and Health (DFESH) approach will ensure appropriate consideration of safety and environmental issues in the initial design, and as the design progresses, validation that the design intent provides a robust level of safety and environmental protection prior to release of the tool to the marketplace. This concept of DFESH has been employed by equipment manufacturers across several vertical market areas to include the semiconductor industry that expects their supplier’s equipment to perform without interruption and without incident.

To identify potential safety and environmental issues associated with process equipment, capital equipment suppliers should ensure that their design team considers each stage of the equipment’s use, and ask several questions about the components or systems for which they are responsible. Some of these questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What is the expected interaction between production and maintenance staff and the components/systems under normal and adverse conditions?
  • If critical components or subsystems operate in an unpredictable or adverse way (e.g., failure to initiate, failure to shutdown), are sufficient single point failure protections in place to offset the upset condition?
  • What hazardous materials are used and/or produced, and what emissions to the environment require appropriate control?
  • If components or subsystems operate in an unpredictable or adverse manner (e.g., leak, or loss of exhaust), are the expected emissions altered?

Based on experiences in the semiconductor industry over the last two decades, instituting a DFESH business process, and identifying issues early in the design phase or prototype, provides the following benefits:

The greatest latitude to correct an identified environmental, health and safety (EHS) problem. Issues identified prior to design completion often allow for more innovative and creative solutions to be employed.
Significantly reduced cost burden vs. modifications at the pilot or pre-production release phases.
Reduced impact on customer shipment schedules.
Process equipment that satisfies safety and environmental requirements is more readily marketable to end-users. From an equipment maintainability perspective equipment downtime is costly; means are sought to decrease maintenance time in high-volume end-user facilities. If equipment can be designed and built with modular hazardous energy control, for example, the ability to shutdown specific modules for maintenance enables the equipment to be back in service much faster.

Capital equipment suppliers who incorporate safety and environmental design concepts into their process equipment through a DFESH business process often realize faster time to market, smoother facility installation, and faster customer process qualification. This makes for good business in today’s heightened awareness of corporate social responsibility and product stewardship.

In our next article, we will explore how the topic of "Environmental Health and Safety Considerations in Equipment Installation" contributes to a building a sustainable and environmentally responsible approach for the PV industry.

Andrew McIntyre is managing principal and co-founder of Environmental and Occupational Risk Management (EORM). E-mail: [email protected].
Patrick Tierney is principal consultant at Environmental and Occupational Risk Management (EORM). E-mail: [email protected].



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