Maintenance is a high-risk activity which often requires working alongside a running process and in close contact with machinery. During normal production operations, automation typically diminishes the likelihood of human error that can lead to accidents and thereby improve health and safety in the workplace. However, in maintenance activities, contrary to normal operation, direct contact between the worker and a machine cannot be reduced substantially, as safe maintenance is an activity where workers need to be in close contact with processes and machinery. During maintenance activities it is essential to bring in maintenance personnel with a safety engineering consultant background.
Working under time pressure is also typical for maintenance operations, especially when shutdowns or high-priority repairs are involved.
As a result, there is a high risk of accidents related to maintenance activities. Here are some of the most common:
- Crushing by moving machinery or unexpected machine start-up
- Falls from heights or accidents involving falling objects
- Electrocution, electrical shocks or burns
- Confined spaces resulting in asphyxiation
- Fire and explosion
1. Planning. Maintenance must start with proper planning. Risk assessment should be a part of the planning process. Employers need to ensure that workers have the skills they need to carry out the tasks, the procedures, they need to know what to do when a situation exceeds their competence.
2. Making the workplace safe. Using barriers and signs, for example, makes the work area secure therefore preventing unauthorized access. The area must clean and safe, with proper lock-out, securing the machinery, temporary ventilation installed, and safe routes established for workers to enter and exit the work area.
3. Use of equipment. Workers involved in maintenance tasks should have tools and equipment which may differ from those that they normally use if the work areas expose them to a variety of hazards such as — hazardous motions or hazardous / flammable liquids, they should have personal protective equipment (PPE).
4. Working as planned. Workers and supervisors must understand and communicate safe work procedures or safety precautions during maintenance work correctly. They should monitor the work to ensure lock out procedures are being followed and required PPE are used.
Maintenance activities are often carried out under pressure, especially when it brings processes to a standstill. However, any shortcuts could negatively impact workplace health and safety. Whatever the constraint, one must follow procedures and not sacrifice health and safety in the workplace.
Procedures need to be in place for unexpected events. The reason for part of the safe system of work is prevention, or to stop work when faced with an unforeseen problem and not exceeds one’s own competence. It is very important to remember that exceeding one’s own skills and competence may cause accidents.
5. Final check. The maintenance process needs to end with checks to make sure they have completed the task, and that the machine is in a safe condition. This process requires the removal of all waste material generated during the maintenance process. If you have questions, you can contact reputable machine safety specialists to help you with this procedure.