Safe Maintenance and Repair Activities: Why an Automated Safety Solution is Needed
Blog | November 11th, 2022

Safe Maintenance and Repair Activities: Why an Automated Safety Solution is Needed

ComplianceQuest is running a monthly series on workplace safety with a focus on one safety risk each month. In October, we ran a blog on fire safety, delineating best practices to mitigate fire safety risks with a proactive approach. The topic for November revolves around safe maintenance and repair activities.

Maintenance is an important aspect of any manufacturing or industrial firm. Equipment and machinery need periodic maintenance/repairs to ensure they are in good working condition. In fact, having a well-designed maintenance schedule can help increase the Return on Capital Employed (ROCE). Of course, needless to say, equipment management is crucial to meet product and customer specifications – as documented in the original design file.

On the other hand, machinery that is not maintained well can be a source of safety hazards. During maintenance, too, workers need to be careful as it can cause injuries such as crushed limbs and even death. Therefore, it is essential to understand the risks and implement controls to minimize incidents and keep workers safe.

Maintenance is of six types:

  • Reactive maintenance, performed when machinery breaks down
  • Preventive maintenance, where replacements are scheduled in advance and performed at regular intervals
  • Usage-based maintenance to replace parts after a particular timeframe
  • Condition-based maintenance to replace worn out parts
  • Predictive maintenance, scheduled based on predictions of a possible breakdown using historical data (by the way, ComplianceQuest customers really appreciate CQ Equipment Management Solution’s analytics capabilities)
  • Prescriptive maintenance which along with failures also predicts hypothetical outcomes using advanced data analysis

Risks Associated with Maintenance and Repairs

While operating machinery is filled with hazards, maintenance activities too can be dangerous. According to one study, one-third of workplace deaths occur due to unsafe maintenance.

Some of the common risks include:

  • Clearing powered equipment by reaching inside
  • Performing maintenance on powered equipment
  • Maintenance performed by unauthorized personnel
  • Machine guards missing or being loose
  • Workers not trained to conduct the maintenance/repair activity
  • Not following permit-to-work best practices including proper scheduling, using the right PPE, etc.

Five Best Practices to Make Equipment Maintenance Safe

Preventive maintenance helps with better machine calibration, improved efficiency, and helps with avoiding unnecessary breakdowns. Some of the precautions to be taken to ensure safe maintenance and repair of equipment include:

  • Perform Job Safety/Job Hazard Analysis: Perform a risk assessment to identify the potential hazards of performing maintenance activities on the equipment. This will help with planning controls and other safety measures to minimize accidents. Read our blog titled ‘7 Benefits of a Robust Job Safety Analysis (JSA) Process to Improve Safety Performance’ to know more:
  • Conduct Inspections: Periodic inspections will help to assess the condition of the machine, the nature of maintenance needed, and the tools and equipment needed for the task. Ensure first aid kit and fire extinguishers are available and that other safety controls are in place.
  • Automated Permit to Work Processes: To ensure that only authorized and trained personnel conduct the maintenance activities and issue a permission-to-work to provide them with access. The worker performing maintenance should be informed of the potential risks and the area planned and prepared to allow the worker to work without disturbance. The equipment should be switched off and decommissioned to minimize the risks. Most importantly, no unauthorized staff should be permitted in the work area.
  • Tool Safety: In addition to having the right tools for the task, using them correctly is important. When not in use, they should be placed away from anywhere they may cause an injury. The use of appropriate PPE is also important, and it should be maintained in good condition.
  • Housekeeping: Keeping the work area clean where the maintenance is done is important. It should be free of inflammable substances, especially if hot work or electrical work is involved. The worker should get sufficient space to work on the machine without hindrance.

Automating Safety Management Processes During Maintenance and Repairs

A well-planned, structured approach is critical during maintenance activities. This will enable supervisors and the safety team to perform a risk assessment and determine the severity of potential risks, implement controls to mitigate them, deploy trained personnel for the task, and prepare the work area as well as the tools for the task.

For better scheduling, one needs access to data related to the machine to minimize human intervention. Automating equipment maintenance can improve productivity and safety as it can help alert all teams affected by preventive maintenance to plan their work accordingly. It can also help improve the safety risk assessment process by providing the various variables affecting safety.

Permit-to-work workflows can be automated by facilitating documentation outlining the precautions, tasks, and worker certification checklists, scheduling work and identifying the skills needed for the employee/contractor to perform the activity safely. Businesses can streamline their process from initiation through to permit closure by having the system automatically deactivate permits based on work completion while manually supporting extensions and exceptions.

Incident Reporting and Safety Observations are two other features that help with reporting observations, near misses, and events, empowering safety leaders and managers with data to capture trends and make informed decisions.

Audits and inspections can be scheduled, reports can be digitally shared with all teams, and continuous improvement made more effective. Training management is another feature of the EHS solution from ComplianceQuest that helps identify skill gaps and schedule training to improve safety during maintenance and repair activities.

A modern EHS like ComplianceQuest will help standardize safety management workflows across locations, including automating and streamlining processes related to safety during maintenance and repair work.

To know more about CQ EHS, request a demo:

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