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How to Keep Industrial Equipment Well-Maintained

February 9, 2018

How to Keep Industrial Equipment Well-Maintained

You want your workplace to be efficient, productive, and safe, so you spend a wad of cash on some top of the range equipment to help you get the job done. But once you have the equipment, if you don’t keep it well-maintained, it won’t do its job as well, and even worse, it won’t be safe to use.

What is maintenance?

Maintenance involves keeping the equipment in your workplace working like it should and making sure it’s safe. It might involve carrying out repairs, replacing parts, inspecting machinery, and testing it.

There are 2 types of maintenance:

Routine or preventative maintenance: This is planned and usually involves scheduled inspections and the replacement of parts to keep the equipment in good working order.

Corrective maintenance: This is carried out when a piece of equipment breaks down, and action needs to be taken to either repair the equipment or replace it.

Why is maintenance important?

Good maintenance programmes are needed to keep workplaces, equipment, and machinery safe and working optimally. They reduce the risk of accidents, near misses, and health problems.

Who is at risk if equipment isn’t maintained?

Everyone in the workplace is at risk if equipment used for work tasks is unsafe. Also, people who visit the workplace like contractors might not be aware that the equipment is unsafe, and they might be harmed. The maintenance work itself is a dangerous business. Estimates say that between 25 and 30% of deaths in the manufacturing industry in the UK result from maintenance activity that’s being carried out.

What does the law say?

The main legislation that deals with maintenance is the Health and Safety at Work Act, which outlines employer responsibilities regarding maintaining a safe working environment and safe equipment.

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires that employers carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment before maintenance work is completed.
  • The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 state that employers must keep their workplace and work equipment in a good state of repair.
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 says that employers must make sure that work equipment is well maintained and that a maintenance log is kept.

How often do maintenance activities need to be carried out?

This will vary. Maintenance schedules might be identified in the risk assessment or in the manufacturer’s guidance. Some industries have specific rules to adhere to depending on the industry and the activities they carry out, for example lifting equipment must be maintained at regular intervals as specified in legislation.

What are the main risks of carrying out maintenance?

Maintenance work can be dangerous. A risk assessment should be done to minimise any hazards before maintenance work is carried out. Some of the risks associated with maintenance work are:

  • risk of falls from height or falling tools and equipment
  • difficulties gaining access to the equipment, especially if it’s in a confined space
  • electrical hazards
  • injuries from moving parts of equipment or machines
  • exposure to asbestos fibres
  • exposure to harmful chemicals
  • exposure to dust
  • exposure to noise if the machinery being maintained is noisy

What can be done to minimise the risks when maintenance work is being done?

Do a risk assessment and plan

Involve everyone in the planning stage, and list premises, plant, and equipment that will be involved in the maintenance process. Write down what maintenance will be carried out and when, and always keep records of work that has been completed.

Use the right equipment

Maintenance tasks should be carried out using the correct tools and personal protective equipment. If you make it up as you go along and use the incorrect tools or equipment, it increases the risk of injury.

Keep the work area safe

Prevent access to the work area in which the maintenance work is being carried out. Isolate and put signs on any machinery that is being maintained incase anyone tries to use it.

Keep everyone up to date

Make sure all employees are aware of the planned maintenance work and that no corners are cut.

Check the machinery operates safely after maintenance

Whether your company checks it, or an outside contractor does it, always complete checks to make sure that a piece of equipment works safely and correctly after it has been maintained.

Make sure employees carrying out maintenance duties are fully trained

Employees carrying out maintenance work should be fully competent to do so, and they must have received the correct level of training.