Maintenance Q&As

Tips on Safety Maintenance: Keeping Your Crew and Machinery Safe

Answered September 26 2019

Maintenance work differs greatly from day-to-day operations—every task is unique, and there is typically little room for automation. Because of this, maintenance technicians are frequently in direct contact with the machines they work on, and that could lead to safety hazards.

In fact, in 2017, deaths related to maintenance and installation occupations reached about 8% of total occupation-related deaths in the U.S., a figure which is only outclassed by construction. Because of the risks involved in maintenance work, safety precautions are an absolute necessity.

Maintenance worker holding a hard hat

What is maintenance safety?

Maintenance safety should be a top priority for maintenance and operations teams. Whenever your maintenance crew works on a piece of equipment, they must follow proper safety procedures. Doing so prevents serious injury, and it can actually keep your facility operating efficiently.

Maintenance safety not only involves safety protocols for those performing repairs, but it also includes regular checks to make sure safety equipment is functioning properly.

Why businesses use maintenance safety precautions

There are many reasons why businesses use maintenance safety precautions, most of which are highly practical. Among those reasons are the following.

Keep workers safe

First and foremost, the purpose of maintenance safety precautions is to keep workers safe. When maintenance technicians follow the right procedures, they lower their risk of injury.

Protect machinery

Maintenance safety procedures also protect equipment. For instance, a proper lockout-tagout (LOTO) procedure makes sure machines don’t randomly start up during repairs. If those procedures aren’t followed, a random equipment startup could not only injure nearby workers, but also it could damage the equipment.

Routine safety checks also help maintenance teams keep machinery in top working condition, minimizing breakdown time, and prolonging equipment life.

Produce on time

Safety issues not only cause injuries, but also delays. If a piece of equipment breaks down and causes an injury, that can significantly delay production.

In order to keep to your production timelines, you need to make sure your equipment is operating at safe levels. Anything other than that risks unplanned downtime and huge production losses.

Maintain peace of mind for workers

When you have adequate safety precautions in place, the risk of injury goes down, and workers feel safer. When your operations and maintenance crews come in knowing that the machinery they’re working on is safe to use, they’re able to work with less fear and more efficiency. Ultimately, more gets done faster.

6 best practices for promoting maintenance safety

When protecting your personnel and equipment, there are certain best practices to follow. Six of these are detailed below.

1. Stick to a schedule

First off, keep to a regular safety check schedule. Safety checks on machinery, maintenance tools, and personal protective equipment (PPE) should all be handled on a routine basis.

2. Use authorization keys

Access control plays a major role in maintenance safety. Hazardous pieces of equipment should restricted with specific authorization. That way, you can limit access to those who have sufficient training.

If only a handful of people have the code to start and stop a piece of equipment, there’s less risk that someone will start it up while a technician is performing repairs on it.

3. Require individual equipment checks

Individuals should consistently make sure their equipment stays in top shape, whether it’s a hard hat, or a drill, or an arc welder. Require workers to check on their equipment regularly. Check on your own just as frequently.

4. After-use checks

At the end of the day, workers should report on the equipment they use. If a piece of machinery or a tool they were using had an issue, they should be encouraged to report on it. Checkout/check-in forms for tools and equipment can assist with that. Whenever they check a piece of equipment back in, they have a chance to report anything that might be wrong with it.

5. Ask for anonymous feedback

In some cases, your crew members may be uncomfortable reporting on equipment faults to their supervisors, in which case asking for anonymous feedback may be the best bet. That way, someone might be able to say something that prevents injury or death later on.

6. Implement regular debriefs and training

Perhaps above all, regular training is a must when it comes to improving maintenance safety. One of the primary reasons why workers don’t use PPE is because they believe that, for one reason or another, it’s not actually required.

Teaching your maintenance team why certain safety measures are necessary helps them comply more completely with the standards you establish, which in turn improves safety.

How to set up a system for maintenance safety using a CMMS

A CMMS can be used to help your maintenance team adopt needed safety protocols. When using your CMMS in this way, these steps might help:

Step 1: Schedule routine safety checks

Start by setting up recurring work orders for safety checks on key pieces of equipment, machinery, and tools.

Step 2: Include lockout-tagout procedures on each asset

Some CMMS’s allow you to digitally lockout pieces of equipment via their software. LOTO procedures for each asset can also be outlined and included on work orders.

Step 3: Encourage detailed reports on PM tasks

Whenever your maintenance technicians complete preventive maintenance tasks on an asset, they can provide a report on the asset’s condition. Encouraging them to do so can alert you to valuable information about potential safety issues that may arise.

Key takeaways

To improve your maintenance safety, it’s best to use a combination of procedures, training, and technology. Doing so will help your team know what procedures they need to follow as well as why they need to follow them.

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